Our say | ‘World class’ hospital expansion needs ‘world class’ staffing levels

WHAT'S APPARENTLY IN STORE: As the election season looms, the Premier visited last week to re-announce the “world class” $632 million expansion of Campbelltown Hospital – this time with some artist's impressions.
WHAT'S APPARENTLY IN STORE: As the election season looms, the Premier visited last week to re-announce the “world class” $632 million expansion of Campbelltown Hospital – this time with some artist's impressions.

The first thing I’d like to do is congratulate Premier Gladys Berejiklian for her $632 million expansion plans for Campbelltown Hospital.

It might be a re-announcement of an earlier announcement, but any spending in Macarthur is welcome.

The Premier might, however, have a hard job convincing local voters who have watched similar pre-election media events (from “saving Hurlstone” to “more commuter car parking at Campbelltown station”) result in big fat broken promises.

But, I’ve gotta say, I think this vow is true.

At least in framework.

It’s too big not to be.

Mind you, the government isn’t rushing things – major work will start, we’re told, in half a decade. At the rapid rate at which our pollies go through leaders, that’s two or three premiers away. But I’m sure it will go ahead.

Why? Well, I’d like to give the Premier the benefit of the doubt and attribute this entirely to her burning concern for the health and wellbeing of our Macarthur region.

But the real guarantee is the knowledge that if there’s anything that motivates any state government of NSW, whether it’s Liberal or Labor, it’s looking after developers.

And building a huge new “word class” hospital, as the Premier hails it, will justify ramming through many more high-rise blocks in Campbelltown and many more squished-up housing estates in Camden and Wollondilly. And that’s our main job, of course.

The reality is, planning tends to be for future populations, not current ones. 

For example, Camden Valley Way’s expansion wasn’t so much about existing traffic, it was more about opening up the surrounding greenfields for the sprawling new housing estates that are now underway.

I just hope the Premier’s “world class” Campbelltown Hospital comes with world-class staffing levels.

Because the hospital’s biggest problem at present isn’t a lack of floorspace.

Nurses protested this year about a lack of staff numbers putting patient care at risk and Campbelltown Hospital is among the longest emergency waiting times in NSW, despite the best efforts of our overworked doctors, nurses and health workers. Hospitals are so much more than bricks and mortar.

What really annoys me is that the Premier’s “world-class” hospital won’t include an intensive care unit (ICU) for children, to serve a massive corner of Sydney dominated by young families.

I don't get too excited about government artist impressions (they’re usually works of fiction only missing unicorns), but I am excited about health care.

I’ve had my own loved ones in the same situation as many hundreds of local families each year who have to travel back and forth from Campbelltown to Randwick/Westmead, as they deal with the trauma of a gravely ill or dying child. So when the Premier and Health Minister say an ICU is not needed here, we get very frustrated.

Most people think “world-class” would include an ability to look after our own kids without forcing them to the other side of Sydney.

An early test of the future will come as work starts on the hospital’s new $34 million multi-storey car park. Many predict it will be used by the government as a justification to introduce the same sort of paid parking that distresses patients, families and staff at many other NSW hospitals.

We’ve already paid our taxes, why tax us again for visiting sick loved ones?