State Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said he is extremely disappointed that the Newman LNP Government has shelved plans to use a 19.85 hectare site at Edmonton, which was acquired in 2010, as the site for a future health facility.
“Concerns about the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS) potentially abandoning plans for the use of the Queensland Health land at Edmonton were raised with me and I sought a meeting on 11 December with Board Chairman Bob Norman and CEO Julie Hartley-Jones to clarify the issue,” Mr Pitt said.
“When asked point blank, Mr Norman said it was the ‘considered opinion’ of the Hospital Board that the land was ‘too big’ and on that basis he told Queensland Health’s property unit that it was surplus to requirements.
“Mr Norman indicated the Board may be interested in a smaller alternative site but when asked if he’d explored the option of sub-dividing or excising the necessary portion from the Edmonton land already owned by Queensland Health, he simply said ‘No’.
“While nobody expects the CHHHS Board to become property developers, it’s hardly a ‘considered opinion’ if limited consideration appears to have been given to how the existing parcel could be best used before looking elsewhere.
“If the LNP Government Government has deemed this land is ‘surplus’ and sells yet another publically- owned asset, not only will it be a short-sighted decision but it will anger many residents.
“Three months have now passed and the public would not have been informed of this decision by either Mr Norman, Queensland Health or the responsible Minister, Lawrence Springborg if it had not been released in the media.
Mr Pitt said the decision to locate at the Edmonton site took into consideration flood levels, regional growth, proximity to future public transport corridor, the 30 year Bruce Highway Upgrade Master Plan, ability to operate during a cyclone, and sufficient land on a greenfield site to accommodate a helipad and allow for future expansion.
“Quite rightly, this was not the only site that was considered – several potential locations were examined, including on the eastern side of the highway at Edmonton.
“But weighing up all of the factors, the one that ticked all the boxes was the Mann’s Farm site which was compulsorily acquired by Queensland Health to provide certainty for our future health needs.
Mr Pitt said people need only cast their minds back to the period post Cyclone Yasi when the need for a secondary location was called for in case the Cairns Base Hospital was required to be evacuated again.
“The public outcry to avoid a repeat of a temporary operating theatre in a sports hall, if a similar evacuation was required, was heard by me loud and clear,” Mr Pitt said.
“That’s why the Queensland Infrastructure Plan under Labor included a southern health facility on that site, not to only serve as a backup facility, but to also focus on early intervention and high quality integrated community care.
“It was proposed that the facility would include day surgery, minor injuries clinic, two operating theatres, emergency treatment, renal, dental, outpatient and rehabilitation services, and medical imaging.
“With this decision, we’re further away than ever from such a facility on this health land under the LNP, who instead of ‘revitalising health services’ have taken an axe to health jobs – including nurses.
“The potential for a future health facility nearby was one of the deciding factors to give the green light for state funding of the Edmonton Leisure Centre – which is also a cyclone shelter for the southern corridor.
“The existing Queensland Health site has the added advantage of being adjacent to the proposed Edmonton Town Centre that would allow for allied health services to be located in close proximity, including the GP Super Clinic on Walker Road.
“In short, this land is right in the middle of where people live, where children go to school and it’s already owned by the state government and designated for health use.
“Queensland Health abandoning the site will no doubt have an impact on plans for the Edmonton Town Centre – the future urban hub for the southern corridor.
“The Minister obviously agrees with Mr Norman’s assessment, yet failed to advise the public what the LNP’s intentions were for this parcel of land and their plans for a future primary health facility in the southern suburbs of Cairns.
“I encourage all residents in Edmonton and the entire southern corridor let this short-sighted LNP Government know what a retrograde step this is in a hope that this decision can be changed.”