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.