WAGGA Base Hospital’s new mental health unit was officially opened yesterday, but thoughts were clearly already on the next and largest phase of the $282 million hospital redevelopment.
Construction workers milled around Gissing House – to be knocked down within weeks to make way for a new eight-storey acute care building – as NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the completion of stage one of the redevelopment.
A common theme of official speeches yesterday was that the mental health unit that will provide more beds and staff and greatly-improved services was long overdue.
“It has been a long road, but we have finally arrived,” said Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) board chairwoman, Gayle Murphy.
“It’s a day of great celebration.”
Mrs Skinner called the opening of the mental health unit a momentous occasion and said it represented the first major upgrade of the hospital since 1982.
“I can tell you, it’s been a long time coming,” Mrs Skinner said.
“I think it’s as good as you will get anywhere in the state, and long overdue.”
About 70 people attended the opening and were told the state-of-the-art building would be fully staffed with about 70 nurses, including 10 recruited from overseas.
Mrs Skinner said new health buildings across the state were acting as magnets to attract doctors and nurses.
The new unit will provide sub-acute mental health care in Wagga for the first time.
Twenty of the 50 beds will be for less severe and rehabilitating patients in the sub-acute section, while there will be an extra 10 acute beds to the 20 now in Gissing House.
In his speech, member for Wagga Daryl Maguire reaffirmed the Coalition government’s commitment to seeing the hospital redevelopment through to the end without interruption.
“We will not stop until this hospital is completed; that was our commitment in opposition and it is our commitment in government,” Mr Maguire said.
Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, acknowledged the $55 million contribution committed by the former Labor federal government, the work behind the scenes by Mr Maguire, Wagga City Council’s persistence in pushing for better health services and the hard work of other people.
“This is not just something for Wagga, it’s something for the entire Riverina region,” Mr McCormack said of the mental health unit.
Speaking before the official ceremony, MLHD director of division of mental health, drug and alcohol services, Robyn Manzie, said there could be no comparison between services at Gissing House and what will be offered now.
“This is a completely different world for our consumers as far as the built environment is concerned,” Ms Manzie said.