AFTER more than a year of work, Hunter New England Local Health District has revealed the broad thrust of a plan to modernise and expand the John Hunter Hospital.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard had been in Newcastle last September for a planning workshop on the project, and the $780 million price tag was revealed by Premier Gladys Berejiklian in the lead-up to the March state election.
Now, health district Michael DiRienzo has outlined the scale of the expansion, with a map showing the general layout - to be built to take advantage of the long-awaited "missing section" of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass and its promised second entrance to the hospital precinct.
Parking has been a fairly constant bugbear at John Hunter, and the map provided yesterday shows the two rows of new buildings at the "rear" of the hospital are planned to cover land that is presently used for car-parking. One row adjoins the existing Hunter Medical Research Institute building, while another two structures cover the adjacent institute car park.
A second series of buildings stands on what is presently an overflow car park for the hospital. Maps of the bypass show the hospital interchange entering the hospital grounds next to where this new row of construction will end.
Mr DiRienzo was happy to put a proposed finish date of early 2026 on the John Hunter expansion, and while the latest public information on the 3.4-kilometre stretch of bypass does not include a construction timetable, there are industry expectations the work will start in the second half of 2021 and take three years to complete.
Such a schedule would see the bypass and the new entrance finished before the expansion, but it would mean most of the hospital construction traffic using only the eastern entrances. Such congestion does not bear thinking about.
In much the same light, it is worth asking whether the lost parking spots are to be replaced, either in the buildings themselves or in the creation of new or extended car parks. Such concerns may well be answered in the coming months, but they are obvious points of question, given the limited information available on Monday.
The Hunter public will look forward to reading the full "health and innovation precinct" master plan, and all that it promises.
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