Letter to the editor: Addressing claims and concerns

I’m writing to address a number of claims and concerns surrounding the community engagement of the Goulburn Hospital Redevelopment.

The Goulburn Post editorial, published online November 7 and in the paper the next day, contains some inaccuracies and misconceptions, which need correcting.

The Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD) Annual Public Meeting (APM) held in Goulburn two months ago, gave those interested in the redevelopment an opportunity to publicly ask questions and raise concerns.

The editorial claims the “anger over the paucity of information had reached fever pitch, culminating in a public meeting in September.”

In fact, the Public Meeting had already been planned and advertised to coincide with the SNSWLHD Board Meeting in Goulburn on that day.

Close to 100 residents attended the APM, with many asking questions about the redevelopment in the open forum, with the feedback following the meeting overwhelmingly positive.

SNSWLHD Executives were joined by the Health Infrastructure CEO and a number of Project Team members to answer every question raised by the audience.

Time was only called when all questions had been asked and answered to the satisfaction of the questioners.

Those attending the session were pleased with the outcome, with many taking the opportunity to talk and engage directly with the experts after the meeting had closed.

Journalists from the Goulburn Post were at the meeting and reported on the extensive range of questions and answers provided across a variety of topics.

I’m surprised this was not reflected in the latest editorial.

It’s important to note Dr Ursula Stephens didn’t attend the APM, where she too would have been given ample opportunity to ask any question regarding the redevelopment.

I find it very disappointing that someone who stood for office at the last NSW State election, continues to go to great lengths to undermine an essential upgrade to the Goulburn health system.

The APM is just one example of the community involvement in the consultation process, which is designed to allow a representative cross-section of the community to put forward insights, knowledge and experience to improve the redevelopment design.

The claim the wider community has been left out of the process is also unfounded. To date more than 1500 people, made up of staff and community groups have been consulted as part of the process.

The most recent consultation has been in regards to schematic design where 15 Project User Groups (PUGs) made up of nurses, medical officers, and other health professionals and staff, were formed to work with architects Billard Leece Partnerships on each specific area of care within the new $120 million facility.

A specific PUG for patients and consumers was also set-up to ensure the consultation could draw on their rich, real world experience, to provide a further opportunity for the health service to meet the community’s needs.

An average of 220 staff and patients participated over two months in each of the three rounds of the PUGs contributing to the redevelopment’s schematic design.

The large volume and high quality of feedback received has meant the architects have needed more time to incorporate suggestions into the final schematic design. This is a vital step. It’s important to take more time if needed to get the design right. The LHD is also committed to following the right process in finalising the schematic design, with the staff, doctors, nurses, local council and the NSW local member being presented with the schematic design report before its open for public comment.

The Project Team is expecting to have the schematic design open for public display and comment around the end of November, having already booked a public space for the drop-in sessions.

This is a great result, for a project of this size and complexity and one which is receiving high-quality feedback from across the Goulburn area.

The community consultation also reinforced the importance of local palliative care services. The District is committed to continuing local inpatient and community based services, with the new hospital to have palliative care beds included in the design.

The editorial claims “not even the community consultative committee (CCC) is being given all the information” is simply not true. The Goulburn CCC has been engaged with the project more than any group with open access to project team members and project information as required, along with a mix of regular formal and informal presentations being made directly to the committee.

The CCC has also had members engaged with specific PUGs for patients and consumers, further contributing to the redevelopment design process.

The project’s communication and engagement is now reaching an important phase, with specific resources being employed in this area as the community consultation increases.

The LHD looks forward to working further with the community and staff to provide Goulburn with a redeveloped health service it can be proud of.

I can give the people of Goulburn an assurance that a further opportunity for public consultation will be offered in the New Year after the changes have been made following the current round of discussions.

Dr Allan Hawke AC, Chair, Southern NSW Local Health District Board