By NSW Premier Mike Baird @MikeBairdMP
It was a construction site 18 months ago, but this week I returned to Blacktown Mount Druitt Hospital with Health Minister Jillian Skinner to officially open the brand new, seven-storey Clinical Services Building.
When we announced the project in 2012 it was the largest ever investment in health infrastructure in Sydney’s west, and the largest in NSW at the time.
In late 2014, Mrs Skinner and I attended a ‘topping out’ ceremony – to celebrate the highest point of construction – on the roof of the building, and this week we returned to officially open and inspect the impressive new facilities.
The hospital is being redeveloped to ensure residents in the area have access to modern and comfortable healthcare and the opening of the Clinical Services Building is the centrepiece of the first stage of the upgrade. Mrs Skinner and I inspected the new building, which includes a comprehensive cancer centre with a new radiation therapy unit, a women’s health clinic, as well as units for cardiac, respiratory and aged care.
We are redeveloping the hospital in two stages. The $312 million first stage is now complete and the community can look forward to another state-of-the-art building that is set to rise next to it.
A multi-storey acute services building, which will include a new emergency department and intensive care unit, will be the focal point of the $400 million second stage of the redevelopment and I’m pleased to say, early works have started and the main works contract will be awarded in early 2017.
We’re spending $10 billion across the state in our first two terms of Government to rebuild hospitals, and close to $2.5 billion of that funding is being spent upgrading health services across Greater Western Sydney.
In other news, it was a huge week for the local government sector with the most comprehensive reform in more than a century resulting in 19 new councils being established across the state.
The Minister for Local Government is also supportive of a further nine councils being created. However, we need to wait for decisions to be handed down by the courts before we can undertake further reform.
Ratepayers deserve to have stronger and more efficient councils, and it’s estimated that reducing waste and red tape through these mergers will free up close to $2 billion over the next 20 years. This means there will be more money available to provide residents with better services and important projects such as local roads, parks, playgrounds and footpaths.
In the meantime, I would like to remind everyone that it will be business as usual for residents in the new council areas and their rates will be frozen for the next four years.
Services will operate as usual, and mayors and councilors of the former councils will have an opportunity to serve on newly established local committees. These committees will be established by the independent administrator in each new council, and will give councilors a chance to provide local knowledge and expertise until council elections are held in September 2017.
Each new council will receive up to $10 million to meet the costs of merging and up to an additional $15 million to kick start new investment in community infrastructure.
This reform has not been easy, but it is the right thing to do for the future of this state.