Geraldton Hospital upgrade a high priority, Health Minister says

Expanding the overstretched Geraldton Hospital is a “top priority”, West Australian Health Minister John Day says after visiting the site.

However, his comments have contradicted those of Premier Colin Barnett, who said last month it was unlikely his Government would provide funding to upgrade the hospital in the near future.

Health professionals have long argued the hospital is too small and lacks vital services.

Upgrades to the hospital were key pre-election promises in previous State and Federal elections, but to date no Government funding has been committed.

During a recent visit to Geraldton, Premier Colin Barnett said projects such as Fiona Stanley and the Perth Children’s Hospital, as well as facilities in Albany, Busselton and Karratha, were the Government’s current focus.

But after inspecting the facility for the first time since taking the health portfolio, Mr Day conceded the hospital was too small for the community’s needs and accepted the arguments of local GPs who have called for funding to amend to the site for more than five years.

“The hospital here is not very old, it’s only a bit over 10 or 11 years old, but the capacity is clearly not as much as it needs to be and I will be making that case very strongly within the State Government,” he said.

“One of the highest priority needs in relation to capital investment in the health system is here in Geraldton.

“That’s recognised. As far as I’m concerned this is at the top of the list.”

Surgery cancelled, patients moved: doctor

The pledge comes a week after a senior Mid West doctor raised the alarm that the hospital was operating well above capacity following an influx of patients to the facility.

Mid West GP Network chairman Dr Ian Taylor said an 18-bed ward designed for day surgery and maternity patients were being used for general cases, resulting in surgery cancellations and post-delivery patients being transferred to the city’s private hospital.

A deal was struck last year between the State Government and St John of God whereby the public and private hospitals in Geraldton would share beds and resources.

“It’s really musical beds and musical hospitals at the moment, just to cope with the huge demand,” Dr Taylor said.

“We’re now getting maternity beds blocked up, we’re getting the day-to-day ward blocked, and surgeries are getting cancelled.

“There’s constant juggling of patients around the place.”

Bid for federal funds: Melissa Price

In 2013 then-Nationals leader Brendon Grills said the State Government would commit equal funding to any Federal package to upgrade the hospital.

But funding for the facility was excluded from the subsequent two Federal budgets, and in October last year the Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley ruled out providing any funding to the hospital for infrastructure upgrades.

However, in this year’s Federal budget, the Turnbull Government announced it would grow public hospital funding by $2.9 billion over three years from 2017.

Member for Durack Melissa Price said she believed this fund could be used for infrastructure works at Geraldton.

“Now is the time for the State Cabinet to make a decision that Geraldton is indeed a priority and they ought to be applying to the Federal Health Minister to ensure Geraldton gets some of those funds,” she said.

It is understood at least $100 million would be needed for works to commence.