Speaking in State Parliament this evening, Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt has called on the government to end the delay and announce a site for future health services for the far north.
Queensland Health made a statement in March 2010 that a short-listing process for potential sites was well advanced, with confidential negotiations underway.
Mr Pitt said Labor went to the last election with a two-pronged strategy which included the $446.3 million redevelopment of the existing Cairns Base Hospital site and acquisition of land for a health facility in the southern suburbs of Cairns.
“The future of health facilities for the region was one of my top priorities at the last election and I made it clear that Labor will also invest in a major health facility in the southern suburbs of Cairns,” Mr Pitt said.
“I’m a vocal supporter of the Bruce Highway Upgrade and Cairns Transit Network projects, but concede that aligning site selection with planning for these projects has perhaps contributed to the delay. I’m sure most people would agree that the location needs to be easily accessible to as many residents as possible.
“However the announcement of these projects has come and gone. I’m calling on the government to announce a site for future health services for the far north.
“Whether it’s at business functions or street stalls that I hold, people are telling me that they want some certainty that their future health needs will be met.
“Like many of my constituents I’m very keen for a decision on this issue. I know it will put many people’s minds at ease and provide some assurance that the southern suburbs are not being forgotten when it comes to the future health needs of our region.
“An announcement on site selection would also put to bed any notion that the Cairns Showgrounds could be an alternative location to the southern corridor which had been proposed in the past.
“More importantly, an announcement of a southern corridor health facility would be another major step towards the continued shaping of Edmonton as the new employment hub for the Cairns region.”
Mr Pitt dismissed claims that a fully-fledged hospital is needed instead of a health facility as premature.
“This year’s budget provided the next $80 million of the Cairns Base Hospital redevelopment, as well as $5.6 million to complete the $12.7 million Cairns Central Community Health Centre. All of this will take pressure off the Cairns Base,” Mr Pitt said.
“While we know the population in the southern suburbs will fill in over the next 20 years, as long as the site selected allows room growth, the facility could be expanded. That’s the benefit of a greenfield site.
“The opportunity also exists for a private health facility to be constructed to complement the government’s plans.
“Add into the mix the GP Super Clinic near Sugarworld and the future health picture for the southern corridor looks bright.”
Mr Pitt commended Member for Leichhardt Jim Turnour and the federal government for their commitment to health services in the region, including the investment of $5 million in the Edmonton GP Super Clinic in partnership with Balance Health Care.
“This clinic will provide more opportunity for people to get access to a doctor without the need to drive into the city, and I understand that it will be open til 10 o’clock on weekday evenings and 8.00pm on weekends,” Mr Pitt said.
“While a mixed billing service will be offered, I’m told the vast majority of local residents will be able to access bulk billing.
“I am however concerned that Tony Abbott would cut GP Super Clinics and, in the process, take us backwards.”
The Cairns Regional Council approved a Material Change of Use for the site in June 2010. Construction is set to begin in September 2010 with the facility expected to be open by July 2011.
Mr Pitt said it was incumbent upon him and other elected representatives to keep up the momentum on project planning and delivery in the southern corridor.
“The opening of the Queensland Transport Customer Service Centre at Bentley Park in January, and the announcement of the Early Years Centre for Bentley Park College are a good start,” Mr Pitt said.
“Residents in the southern suburbs of Cairns have called for action on the Bruce Highway and we are getting on with the job.
“But all levels of government need to be planning now to ensure that there is adequate service provision to meet the demands of current and projected population growth in the southern corridor.
“Residents aren’t concerned with which level of government provides a service – they just want to be able to access them, whether it be paying their bills or accessing government information.
“Ideally, I’d like to see a government service hub incorporating local, state and federal government departments at Edmonton Town Centre.
“A one-stop-shop would be a practical solution and if we can get in-principle agreement early enough, it will make things easier when population growth eventually forces the issue.”