Keith Woodward and Denis Suttling (Letters, 21 Nov) both correctly (but perhaps belatedly, I don’t know whether they complained at the appropriate time) point out that the hospital is in the wrong place. It is important to understand how this happened.
NSW Health finalised its Development Options Business Case in late 2005. Its qualitative analysis chose the former Warringah Council Chamber land in Dee Why, with Frenchs Forest a distant third. But in 2006 government decided on Frenchs Forest, based on “risk” (the strength of public opposition anticipated) and cost. The cost was calculated on the basis that the necessary road network improvements would cost a mere $21.3M, whereas the current published figure is $500M, which doesn’t allow for the fact that the roading project is now more than a year behind schedule.
Short-term political and bureaucratic criteria won out over the health professionals’ long-term preference.
When Hazzard, then Planning Minister, signed the 16 Oct 2012 order kick-starting the process for the Frenchs Forest hospital, he did so without reviewing or updating the 2006 decision, despite much of its data being the best part of a decade old. Nor were any new locations considered.
So when Health Infrastructure claimed in the Environmental Impact Statements for the proposed hospital that the choice of location was based on “robust qualitative analysis”, that was untrue.
They also claimed that the Frenchs Forest site was central to the catchment area (which had previously been defined as what is now the Northern Beaches LGA). This is blatantly false geographically. And as regards population distribution, the centre was assessed in the original studies as being Cromer (it would have moved north since then).
Neither of these major falsehoods was challenged by NSW Planning when it approved the hospital, despite having them pointed out in residents’ submissions.
Which highlights the fundamental systemic flaw in approving public projects, ie. if one part of government (in this case Health) says it wants to do something, another part of government (eg Planning) is not going to stop them. They’re both on the same team, after all!
And the pretence of public consultation is an utter sham.
Perhaps it’s time for the Auditor General to look into the matter. Billions of taxpayer dollars are being misspent.
So the Big Bash League is categorised s first class cricket? You're kidding! A contradiction in terms, more like.
"World class? State of the art?" Give me a break! The Brad Hazzard Memorial Folly was never planned to be more than a Level 5 hospital. Nor was it built to top-level "green" specifications. Aim low, and look what you get.
When Gladys Berejiklian ‘insisted Health Minister Brad Hazzard was "on top of all those issues"’ (SMH, 19 Nov), she never spoke a truer word. Like in the children’s chant “I’m the King of the Castle”, he sits smugly on top of the whole sordid shemozzle.
For years it has been his pet project, a personal obsession. Despite telling a public meeting that he couldn’t be involved in the process because of a perceived conflict of interest (being local member and local resident), it was he as Planning Minister who on 16 Oct 2012 signed the order designating NSW Health’s third-choice location as the site for the hospital.
Little did he expect at that time that he would hold the Health portfolio when it came time to clean up the mess. And hopefully be held accountable for it. As ye sow, so shall ye reap, Brad.
On 19 Nov 2018 we scored a major triumph, the Quinella! Not only were we both published in the SMH, but Anne had the lead letter and I was second. We weren't going to quibble about their heavy editing. The topic of both was the shambolic performance of the new Northern Beaches Hospital, which had opened on 30 October, and was much in the news. Included here are the other letters on the same subject, and it's well worth reading down to the last one.
Hospital a Basket Case but it’s no real surprise (SMH 19 Nov 18)
With the building of the Northern Beaches Hospital, residents of Frenchs Forest have been subjected to three years of traffic and other disruption ("Brand new hospital 'courting disaster'", November 17-18). The massive and ugly roadworks are running a year behind schedule. Hoardings around the hospital site boasted of a $500 million spend. The reported cost is now $600 million, a blowout of 20 per cent.
To add insult to injury, we learn the new hospital is a shambles. Two functioning, yet poorly maintained, hospitals were closed and patients moved to a state-of-the-art institution that wasn't ready. I'm furious so much money can be spent, so much political boasting can be done, and yet at the last hurdle the management team can stumble in such an astonishing way. I'm even more furious that minister Brad Hazzard and Gordon Ballantyne, the boss of Healthscope, offer nothing but weasel words. This is a hospital. Patients are depending on it running smoothly from day one. – Anne Carpenter, Frenchs Forest
What do you expect when you privatise public facilities without adequate supervision and control? Our blow-hard politicians are quick to blame private contractors, but the fundamental problem is of their own making. When Hazzard, then planning minister, designated Frenchs Forest as the site for the hospital, he ignored NSW Health's Development Options Business Case, a "robust qualitative analysis" that ranked Frenchs Forest a distant third out of the six sites considered. Now the politicians and their planning lackeys want to develop a new "town centre" on the last bit of green space we have. A lovely residential suburb is being destroyed. – Paul Cunningham, Frenchs Forest
The shambles is because, according to Hazzard, almost 2700 patients have gone through emergency in the 16 days since the hospital opened. Could the huge numbers be in part because Hazzard has closed the emergency department at Mona Vale Hospital? Why? Because the northern beaches is traditionally a strong Liberal area. It therefore is not electorally damaging that people now have to drive an extra 30 minutes for medical assistance. On arrival, delays of six hours in the new hospital's emergency department are common. Meanwhile, the Band-Aid centre at Mona Vale Hospital remains empty. – Sue Martin, Avalon Beach
We were promised a new public hospital and faster buses. We have received a dysfunctional, privately run hospital and the new B1 service resulting in an overall slower trip. – Denis Goodwin, Dee Why
NSW has seen this before. When Port Macquarie Base Hospital was privatised in the 1990s, it was so badly run the government had to buy it back – at twice the cost. What will it take for politicians to dismount from their ideological high horse and concede privatising public hospitals is a bad thing, a body bag? Oh wait, Northern Beaches Hospital doesn't have any. – Daniel Sharp, Freshwater
Having experienced Healthscope's idea of post-operative care at Prince of Wales private after my bilateral knee replacement, problems at the Northern Beaches Hospital come as no surprise. But nothing can top my four-month battle with Healthscope Pathology over its attempt to charge me for a pap smear. – Timothy Ashton, Glebe
To be fair, one department of the new hospital has been a resounding success- the helipad.
Every time these noisy machines fly low over our homes (just as likely to be flying patients out to receive proper treatment elsewhere as flying them in), the racket resounds through our ears. And given the propensity of helicopters to fall out of the sky, there are public safety concerns too.
Just one of the many reasons Hazzard should be crucified for not building the hospital in NSW Health’s preferred location of Dee Why.
There aren't too many ways available for venting one's anger or frustration at some of the things happening in the world around us. One such escape valve is the good old Letter to the Editor, even if only a small proportion of them gets published. It is often well-nigh impossible to keep the discussion short enough for the newspapers. So rather that have them expire in some Editor's Trash bin, we'll preserve them for posterity here. Inevitably, though, some nuances will be lost for those unfamiliar with the background or the letter or article to which we are responding. But each is undoubtedly a miniature literary masterpiece, though you may find the themes become somewhat repetitive.