WAGGA on Monday moves into a new era of healthcare as the rebuilt hospital opens its doors to patients – a history-making moment for the region.
At 6am, the base hospital’s emergency room will close, and the new ER will take over.
The health service will start the painstaking process of transferring existing patients – a move hoped to run like clockwork – and the red brick tower will finally be rendered redundant.
Wagga mayor Rod Kendall said it was an historic moment for the community.
“This is a very historic moment,” he said. “This sort of build is very, very irregular … it only happens every 50 or 100 years.
“This moment is probably of the same significance to when the current hospital opened.”
Cr Kendall said the long-fought $282 million investment in healthcare was the single-biggest investment he had seen in Wagga.
“Nothing else has topped it,” he said.
The city got a taste of revamped healthcare five years ago when work started on the mental health unit.
Stage two – the acute services building – the centrepiece of the redevelopment – has six operational levels and a helipad on level seven.
Its colour scheme reflects the Murrumbidgee River.
Respected Wagga cardiologist Gerard Carroll described it as “beautiful” and said it belonged not only to Wagga, but the Riverina as well.
“It’s a really momentous occasion,” he said.
“It’s very exciting how we’ve come from start to finish – it really is the culmination of years’ of hard work by hundreds of people.
“It’s a fantastic end to what’s really been a 20-year project.”
Dr Carroll, one of the strongest campaigners for the new hospital, said state governments could no longer ignore the need for high-quality healthcare in the Riverina.
He said there had been two decades of broken promises and some planning money, but never anything of significance.
“2011, when the Coalition won office, the hospital really started to move along – and quite efficiently,” he said, adding that independent candidate Dr Joe McGirr helped “focus” the new government on the project.
“But they took it to the election, and their promise has been honoured completely.”
Patient transfers will run through to Wednesday.