6 March 2024

Dunmore paddocks cleared and ready for work to start on new Shellharbour Hospital

| Jen White
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Inspecting progress on the preparation work for the new Shellharbour Hospital … Shellharbour Councillor Rob Petreski, Wollongong Hospital General Manager Nicole Sheppard, Ryan Park, Anna Watson and Federal Whitlam MP Stephen Jones. Photo: Jen White.

Early site preparation work for the new Shellharbour Hospital at Dunmore is almost complete and the project is on target for construction to start in the middle of this year.

On a recent visit to the site, NSW Health Minister and Keira MP Ryan Park said the new facility would be “beyond just a hospital for the southern part of the Illawarra”.

“It will also act as a pressure valve for Wollongong Hospital where we know there are significant challenges every single week,” he said.

“I want to acknowledge the staff of Shellharbour, Wollongong and Bulli and our urgent care centres because at the moment they’re facing unprecedented challenges and unprecedented growth. This hospital will certainly be a welcome addition to health services across our region.”

Mr Park said in the space of a few days at the end of February, there were 600 presentations to Wollongong Hospital’s emergency department.

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“I don’t care what emergency department you are in in NSW, that’s an enormous pressure on the staff,” he said.

“I also understand that puts pressure on health services for the community to access, that’s why we’re fast-tracking things like our urgent care centres now at Dapto, Corrimal and Bulli Hospital.”

Bulli Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre recently resumed services on Sundays. Mr Park said more than 40 people sought treatment on the first Sunday it reopened.

Mr Park acknowledged Shellharbour MP Anna Watson for her advocacy for the new hospital, and the previous government which committed to the project.

“It is a massive build, more than $700 million – one of the largest investments in regional and rural hospitals across NSW,” he said.

An aerial view of the site of the new Shellharbour Hospital.

An artist’s impression of the new Shellharbour Hospital. Photo: Health Infrastructure.

“These early works are now near completion and that means the significant construction works will commence around mid-year that will literally transform the site over the next few years.”

He addressed community complaints about the lack of maternity services and a helipad at the new hospital.

“At this stage birthing services will remain at Wollongong Hospital and we’re putting the infrastructure in place [here] to allow that to grow if we need to change that.

“We know there is pressure on this area in terms of growing and new families, but we’ve also got to make sure we’ve got the staff in place for maternity services.

“The ability to resource and staff midwifery is very, very difficult and that’s not isolated to this community, it’s not even isolated to NSW, it’s borderline a global shortage of midwifery staff for a range of different reasons.

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“I’m never going to say never, that’s for sure. But at the moment we think from a safety perspective, a resourcing and staffing perspective, the decisions we’ve made are the best ones.

“Similarly with the helipad, we’ll put infrastructure in place broadly to allow that to be constructed at a later date.

“Helicopters will be able to land in emergency situations in and around the site.

“This hospital will be a few years before it is fully complete and we’ll be monitoring carefully what happens with the demographics and growth in the population around the hospital going forward.”

Mr Park said no decision had been made on the future of the current Shellharbour Hospital site.

He said although the old Bulli Hospital site was being developed for housing – “and housing is a priority within our local community” – he would also be having discussions around how the current hospital could fit other health care services.

As part of the new Shellharbour Hospital and Integrated Services project, refurbishments have been completed at Wollongong Hospital and Bulli Hospital to provide expanded rehabilitation and inpatient services in the northern Illawarra region.

Planning is also underway for a new community health centre in Warrawong, on a section of the old Port Kembla Hospital site.

Hutchinson Builders was awarded the early works contract in 2023 to prepare the site for the new hospital, and the State Significant Development Application for the new hospital is before the government awaiting approval.

Construction is expected to be complete in 2027.

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