THE $780 million redevelopment of the John Hunter Health and Innovation Precinct is only the beginning, with hopes the NSW Government will commit another $800 million to refurbish the existing hospital in "stage two" of the project.
Addressing a Property Council lunch on Thursday, Hunter New England Health chief executive Michael DiRienzo said it was his "little mission" to make the John Hunter the largest public hospital in NSW.
"Stage one is the first $780 million, and then we start to talk about what stage two looks like - which is the other $800 million we'll be asking of the government in the next few years to commit to as well," Mr DiRienzo said.
"Stage one will be the building of acute services that are required to increase the capacity and purpose of the hospital, and then, what we're left with is the old hospital that will need to get refurbished and re-purposed.
"I think it would be difficult for any government to be able to walk away from this bright new shiny building, and then have the old building... that will still have patient accommodation and still have some services.
"I think stage two will happen, purely because of stage one."
Mr DiRienzo said the John Hunter and John Hunter Children's Hospital served a population of about a million people.
"Our emergency department sees 84,000 presentations a year," he said. "We do about 30,000 surgeries a year.
"When people keep saying they have just missed out on getting their surgery done on time, I think you'll understand that doing 30,000 surgeries in a hospital that was designed and built for capacity 27 years ago is no mean feat. We have more than 650 beds, and in the new development, I would suggest that we will probably be the largest public hospital in NSW. That is my little mission for health infrastructure."
Mr DiRienzo said the potential for hotels and retail space to be built within the precinct was also a "no brainer". He said there had been "very productive discussions" with the University of Newcastle about there being a "university presence" on the site, as well as TAFE, for integrated learning.
Gillian Geraghty, the executive director of Rural and Regional Health Infrastructure, said they wanted to build a space where health, research, and education could collide.
"We are off and running, and waiting for a clinical services plan to land to find our scope," she said. "We'll spend the next 18 months on some design work and we will be engaging a contractor to enable construction to commence in 2022."
Other speakers said the health precinct's design would aim to optimise the site's parking and aging road infrastructure for the future.
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