The Lismore Base Hospital upgrade underway.
The Lismore Base Hospital upgrade underway. Cathy Adams

$900m commitment: Investment in hospitals vital for future

THE health district faces challenges not yet known but with rising populations, including a 29 per cent increase in Northern Rivers residents aged 65 and older, there will be no shortage of work to do.

Demographer Bernard Salt said the Northern Rivers population will swell by more than 7 per cent by 2029 to a population of 272,696, putting more pressure on health care services.

Which means upgrading existing health facilities and creating new ones is all the more important.

To cater for the future more than $900 million has been put towards the redevelopment of Northern NSW Local Health District's three major hospitals and to create a new HealthOne facility.

The health district has broken down how they are preparing for the future of health issues in our region:

Tweed Valley Hospital

In the north, $582 million is being spent to deliver the new Tweed Valley Hospital on a greenfield site at Cudgen, while also providing some interim upgrades at the existing Tweed Hospital.

The Tweed Valley Hospital will provide more beds; an expanded Emergency Department; enhanced medical, surgical and mental health services; expanded outpatient services with more clinics; a new interventional cardiology service; and a new radiation oncology service as part of integrated cancer care. The new hospital will be completed in 2022 and open in 2023.

Lismore Base Hospital

In Lismore, the $320 million redevelopment has provided the Lismore Base Hospital with two new towers to provide four new surgical and medical inpatient wards; new intensive care and high dependency unit; new Emergency Department; new renal unit; new integrated women's care unit; new paediatric unit; new perioperative unit with state-of-the-art operating theatres; new medical imaging services; new pharmacy; and a rooftop helipad.

The redevelopment also includes some refurbishment of the existing hospital. Work is due for completion in 2022.

Ambulatory Care Centre

Grafton Base Hospital's $17.5 million Ambulatory Care Centre is due for completion in 2020. It will provide: oncology, chemotherapy, and haematology services; renal dialysis unit; physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, and speech pathology departments; fracture clinics; and outpatient clinics for patients with chronic health conditions.

Evans Head HealthOne

The new Evans Head HealthOne is due for completion in 2020 and will provide a modern health facility with new clinical rooms, gymnasium, and treatment spaces for additional tailored health services to complement those already available.

New services will include: chronic diseases management and lifestyle groups; cardiac rehabilitation and respiratory groups; child and family therapy groups including speech pathology, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy; and dietetics and diabetes education services.

Byron Central Hospital

In 2016, the $88 million Byron Central Hospital was completed. The project saw the construction of a brand new state-of-the-art hospital, on a greenfield site, to meet the current and future clinical needs of communities in Byron Shire and surrounding areas.

Bonalbo Multi-Purpose Service (MPS)

The new Bonalbo Multi-Purpose Service (MPS) was officially opened in 2018. The Bonalbo MPS comprises a 15-bed Residential Aged Care (RAC) facility, a 24-hour emergency department, acute inpatient beds, and outpatient and GP consultations rooms, laundry and kitchen facilities acute inpatient beds, as well as a meeting room, mortuary, ambulance bay, and staff amenities.

The Bonalbo MPS is part of the broader $300-million State-wide program of works to upgrade existing, or build new, MPS facilities in a number of rural and remote communities across NSW.