Shiny shovels were out in force on Wednesday as the first sod turned on Goulburn Base Hospital's redevelopment.
Construction firm Hansen Yuncken has been appointed to undertake the $150 million project, to be completed by the end of 2021/early 2022.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard was in town for the occasion and told The Post the work was in budget.
But the project is on to its third set of architects. The firm Silver Thomas Hanley was appointed last October to peer review previous architects' design and to achieve efficiencies in cost and use of space.
Three months was spent on planning and a further six months on staff and community consultation. The exercise was undertaken in response to budget concerns.
In January, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a further $30m for the hospital, taking the commitment to $150m. At the time she said this was not due to a budget shortfall but would add new outpatient and allied health clinics, renal and chemotherapy facilities in response to community feedback.
Mr Hazzard insists the project is running to time despite questions over the lack of on the ground action since preliminary work was completed several months ago.
"I was amused to hear (Opposition leader) Jodi McKay say it was behind schedule because every report I've had is that it's on track," he said.
"...It's within budget and from our point of view it provides everything the community needs and that includes building for the future.
"...One of the major aspects of building a new hospital in Goulburn is recognising that it's a very attractive area for people to come and live."
The Minister said he had no knowledge of any previous budget concerns but said if there were they would have been brought to the Goulburn MP's attention and addressed.
"In every hospital build there are budget challenges and that's the joy of building massive infrastructure but the excitement here is it will provide an incredible health facility and jobs for the economy," Mr Hazzard said.
The redevelopment comprises a four-storey clinical services building which will include the main entry and hospital reception; emergency and medical imaging departments; intensive care unit; operating theatres, day surgey and recovery areas; new medical, surgical, paeditaric, rehabilitation and geriatric inpatient units with designated palliative care beds; a maternity and birthing suite, ambulatory paediatric and antenatal clinics; mental health triage and emergency call service.
The Health District has released 'fly-through' vision of the project.
NSW Health Infrastructure chief executive Rebecca Wark acknowledged the design had been refined but said this was not unusual in large developments.
"Sometimes you have to cut costs to suit but the (extra $30m) enabled us to incorporate some additional ambulatory and cancer care services, which now provides the scope the community needs," she said.
Ms Wark did not directly answer why several architects had been involved in the upgrade, instead saying: "We have the right architects to finish the job now and that's the best thing for the project."
Ms Wark said one of the major changes was the facade, which now incorporated a cream-coloured horizontal stripe in its pattern, better blending with the old part of the hospital.
A mortuary was also added, and Health Infrastructure was looking to include a central sterilising area for theatres.
"We've been able to afford more for less with this architect through design and refinements," she said.
Separately, talks with the Goulburn Rose Society and the community are underway to relocate the rose garden from near the maternity section to provide for a car park. The roses were planted in honour of deceased community members, including Adele Smith.
Hansen Yuncken general manager Nick Luzar said the company was working on the Macksville, Orange and Dubbo Hospital redevelopments and had considerable experience in the field.
"They all have their challenges and it's a skill to get the outcome all the stakeholders want," he said.
Mr Luzar expected 200 people to be on site at peak construction, with many being local subcontractors.
Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman said more than 4000 community members, staff and patients had been consulted to ensure the services met needs.
A room for an MRI machine was included in the original design but the hospital is yet to secure a licence for the equipment from the federal government. It missed out in the last round.
Mr Hazzard said the state government was still pressing the case.
"Wendy and I are keen to see the federal government expand the number of licences such that this area gets one," he said.
"It makes sense from our point of view because transporting patients (to other hospitals) is inconvenient and costly. The fact that we have a room there for it is an important statement."
But the State is not committing to additional car parking at this stage. The council has been pushing the case, saying the site was already congested. Mr Hazzard said he had been advised that car parking was sufficient at ground level at this stage.
"But at some point consideration will be given to additional parking if it is found to be necessary," he said.
Meantime, Ms Tuckerman acknowledged that people had been asking her office when construction would begin.
"The community has been anxious about when it would start. The pre-work has been done for some time but it's important that people were consulted on what the end footprint would look like," she said.
The MP said it was a fantastic day and it was important now to get it done. She also acknowleged former MP Pru Goward's role in securing funding.
Mayor Bob Kirk also said people had been asking questions about the upgrade's progress.
"They've seen it covered up and nothing happening for such a long time. It's generated questions but it's lovely timing to have the Minister here today," he said.
"It's a significant day and I look forward to seeing this development occur, as is everybody. I think it will be another addition and string in the bow of Goulburn's offerings so we can cater for (expected) population growth of another 15,000 people in the next 20 years. It's good to see."
The Health District plans to hold a community drop-in session in Goulburn on October 31 for people to learn more about the redevelopment.
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