Concord Hospital upgrade – good, but what about the rest of the hospital?

July 2023 update: With the election of the new Labor NSW government, the plans for major new construction of core hospital wards has been withdrawn. However, the government will proceed with a version of hospital staffing ratios which meets most of the policy expectations of the nurses, midwives and other hospital staff – that’s good. Negotiations are still in progress on pay rises – that’s important. Yet some two-thirds of the hospital still requires major upgrade to meet full modern standards; most likely that will remain unresolved for years.

February 2023 update: More recently, I have found out that some 3 or 4 years ago, senior staff put forward plans to upgrade the large part of Concord Hospital which has not been upgraded – which a number of staff have described to me as “1950s conditions”. As described to me, that plan would not just refurbish substantial areas, but would also allow changes to the way the hospital operates based on different ways of managing the flow and handling of patients compared to the past.

Unfortunately, the NSW government did not accept those plans, choosing instead to implement similar plans in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA). I understand that the government cannot do everything at once. But the government is choosing to dramatically increase development and the local population, while claiming that the infrastructure is in place for that massive development. This is clearly untrue for the hospital, as mentioned above. Yes, there is a plan for a new carpark, but most of the hospital needs transformation.

The government must explain to the hospital staff and community how Concord Hospital will be brought up to modern standards. And especially, the government is leaving the overworked, underpaid and stressed staff of large parts of Concord Hospital totally in the dark on how they will ensure acceptable working conditions across the hospital. I support nurse to patient ratios as an effective way to improve patient care while reducing the unfair burden on nurses. And meanwhile, staff pay has progressively fallen behind over decades, with future pay rises capped. I support the Greens policy of substantial pay rises for nurses, midwives and paramedics.

Concord Hospital has recently completed a new clinical services building for inpatient and outpatients: the Rusty Priest Centre for Rehabilitation of defence personnel, plus aged care and a comprehensive cancer centre. Reportedly, this Stage 1 upgrade was designed to deal with a projected population increase of 20% based on 2011 census figures. Unfortunately for the patients, the population had already grown by over 15% when the project was announced in 2017, and exceeded 30% – before completion! The hospital planners apparently did not notice that the NSW government continues to force rapid population increases beyond the scope of their planned upgrades.
Population growth by Local government area shows the total population growth of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield local government areas exceeding the scale of service expansion in the governments hospital upgrade shortly after beginning construction.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of the hospital remains run-down. Complaints have included plaster falling off the walls, ceiling collapses, leaking roofs and finding a possum in an older part of the hospital. A project to build a new car park has been announced, with no other clear plans on offer. Councillor Jago says, “People I speak to are grateful for the upgrade of about one-third of the hospital, even though the NSW Government delayed it. But they also express deep concern about the development of the remainder of the hospital and its future capacity which is not yet even in the planning stage. The older parts of the hospital require urgent attention.” “The growth in population has been a deliberate policy of the NSW government to force increased numbers of new dwellings in each council area. While deliberately creating this high growth, the government has failed to plan and implement the services required by the future population. “The government must immediately allocate funds to initiate planning for the hospital’s next stage of development for the hospital. Also, future hospital development must take into account the higher projected population growth rates, with much larger scale in future. It’s not just the construction of new buildings, but the number of staff and increasing their pay.” Concord Hospital is the major hospital provider in the Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield Local Government Areas, with significant inflows of patients from Sydney’s Western and Northern suburbs. Yet major infrastructure required locally lags behind the growth being imposed on local areas by the NSW government. See Charles Jago’s 2017 press release on the Concord Hospital upgrade.