$3bn for Sydney's 'forgotten' hospitals

The Daily Telegraph, 10 September 2023

Four of Sydney’s most neglected hospitals will be overhauled as part of a $3bn budget health cash splash to build and fix health services in the greater western suburbs.

More than 50,000 health care workers will also see an increase in their after-tax take-home pay, with the Minns government overhauling the salary packaging of Health Services Union award workers.

Despite the Minns government branding the budget to be in “repair” mode, it wants to reassure voters this will not be in lieu of its election commitments

Dubbed “the forgotten hospital”, Fairfield Hospital has not had a major redevelopment since it opened in 1989, with staff grappling with outdated equipment, broken airconditioning and with medical records still being handwritten.

The government has confirmed its election pledge to spend $550m on upgrading the hospital will be in the state budget on Tuesday, September 19 as part of what it has described as one of the largest recent investments in western Sydney health infrastructure.

The budget will include an additional $400m to build the $700m Rouse Hill Hospital – the first new adult public hospital in Western Sydney in more than 40 years.

The hospital will include an emergency department, maternity services, ambulatory and outpatient care and medical imaging services.

Another $350m will go towards a major redevelopment of Canterbury Hospital, the first to be undertaken since 1998.

The budget will confirm the $1.3bn promised for the new Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital, which will be built on a new site.

It will be the first major investment since the two hospitals merged in 1997.

The government has also set aside $120m for additional beds at Blacktown and Mt Druitt Hospitals.

As well as investing in hospital infrastructure, the government has also confirmed it deliver better salary packaging for HSU health workers by increasing their share of tax savings from 50 to 70 per cent.

The move will benefit allied health, health and security assistants, administration staff, cooks, patient transport staff, paramedics, sterilisation technicians, tech assistants and telephonists, with the government hopeful it will also help in the recruitment of more workers.

In the case of a cleaner earning $54,483 per year, the change will result in an increase in after-tax take-home pay of $753.36 per year – or about $14.99 per week.

Despite the challenges of the upcoming budget, Premier Chris Minns said the investment in health care in western Sydney was critical in meeting the needs of the region’s growing communities.

“The thousands of people moving into these growth areas every year deserve world class healthcare,” he said.

A recent petition conducted by Fairfield City Council revealed how Fairfield Hospital lacked health specialists, had no electronic medical records and limited maternity services despite being in one of Sydney’s fastest growing regions.

Health Minister Ryan Park said families in greater western Sydney had a right to equitable healthcare.

“That’s why we’re committed to delivering the essential services our community deserves and expects all while building the healthcare infrastructure to meet the need of these growing communities into the future,” he said.