Budget holds key to upgrade

NORTHERN Rivers residents are holding their collective breath over the desperately-needed stage three upgrade of Lismore Base Hospital in the wake of Tuesday's Federal Budget.

The NSW Minister for the North Coast and Local Government, Ballina MP Don Page, said the NSW Government was “interested” to learn the long expected release of federal funds for regional health facilities was up for allocation.

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“The $475 million in extra funds will be welcome news to communities across NSW and to thousands of hospital workers, including the diligent and hardworking staff at Lismore Base Hospital,” Mr Page said.

“As Minister for the North Coast, I will certainly be discussing the needs of Lismore Base Hospital and the proposed central hospital for Byron Bay with Health Minister Jillian Skinner, and pressing their claims for a slice of the new funding.

“However under the new funding arrangements, new hospital or redeveloped hospital projects have to be made shovel-ready in order to be eligible.”

Lismore MP Thomas George said last month a Coalition Government hoped to fast-track $10 million of the estimated $150 million required for the project for planning and design in order to get the upgrade shovel-ready. While North Coast Coalition members and shadow ministers stressed the urgency of the upgrade throughout the recent election campaign, depleted state coffers has meant NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner has been unable to guarantee work would commence.

Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin joined with Northern Rivers state members Mr George, Mr Page and Steve Cansdell late last year to lobby the then NSW health minister Carmel Tebbutt to reconsider funding after Lismore Base Hospital was excluded from a priority list of health and hospital projects.

“The (Federal) Budget includes $1.8 billion for regional health facilities, and Health Minister Nicola Roxon has announced an extra $475 million yet to be allocated,” Ms Saffin said. “This is encouraging news for our region and an opportunity for us to lobby hard for the much needed Stage 3 at Lismore Base.”

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