March 20 - 26, 2022: Issue 531


Councillor Korzy calls for council to support the rebuilding of a new public acute services hospital on Mona Vale campus site: march 2022 Meeting

 Front Entrance of the 2016 completed Mona Vale Community Health Centre building 

A Motion submitted by Councillor Miranda Korzy for the March 2022 Council Meeting calls for the retention in public ownership of the whole of the Mona Vale Hospital site, for the footprint of the now demolished main hospital building and emergency ward to be maintained as open land for the rebuilding of a new public acute services hospital and for any further development on the hospital land to be for public health services only.

Pittwater Online spoke to Councillor Korzy, asking as she had previously served as a member of the Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee was this a follow on from that advocacy.

''Clearly I’ve carried my belief in the need for a public hospital providing acute services at the Mona Vale site with me from the SMVH committee onto council - and I believe that a large section of the Pittwater and Narrabeen community agree with me on this.'' Cr. Korzy said

''But this is also a follow up to the 2020 NSW Parliamentary inquiry into Northern Beaches Hospital which recommended:

“That the NSW Government take immediate steps to engage directly with Northern Beaches state Members of Parliament, community leaders and other stakeholders to investigate the ways and means to restore a public level 3 emergency department to the Mona Vale Hospital as soon as possible”. 

Two years down the track from that inquiry, we need to make sure that engagement happens.''

''The flooding which closed Wakehurst Parkway for a large part of last two weeks has reminded us how isolated Pittwater - including our offshore communities - and part of Narrabeen can be. But even if that flooding was eliminated, every road out of the area was closed at some point during the 1994 bushfires with flames leaping across Narrabeen lagoon.  

'' Secondly, we know for a whole series of reasons that we will need acute services returned to that site in the future. I therefore hope that this new council will offer the same backing to residents that Pittwater did. I also want to ensure that the hospital site does not become covered in private clinics or other developments that make it difficult to rebuild our public emergency, surgery, maternity, intensive care and other acute services. No-one should have to bring their credit card with them to check into hospital.''

Councillor Korzy's Motion lists the recent closure of the parkway during the rain event has highlighted problems for Pittwater residents in accessing acute hospital services. 

During these events, weather conditions often make it impossible for helicopters to transfer patients out of the area.

The Motion points out that the loss of emergency, maternity, paediatrics, surgery and other acute hospital wards from the Mona Vale site means that many residents must now travel more than 20 km to reach the nearest facility. In fact, Bondi and Erskineville are closer to Northern Beaches Hospital than much of the Pittwater Council Ward. The unique situation of the many offshore communities also demonstrates the inequity of local hospital services. 

Further, while medical outcomes can be better at large tertiary hospitals for complex conditions, distance becomes critical in crises such as anaphylactic shock, asthma attacks, obstructed labour during childbirth, drowning and stroke, where timely treatment can literally mean the difference between life and death. 

Although all ambulances are now equipped to deal with every emergency, and a new ambulance station has been built on the Mona Vale Hospital campus, the Australian Paramedics Association, the union for paramedics, has been stating that an emergency healthcare crisis that has been decades in the making has become more apparent in the last two years. 

''The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how far into the crisis we are. Inadequate resourcing has for years led to forced overtime, Paramedics working up to 21 hours with no breaks, and worsening response times. '' the APA states

In January 2022 Pagewood couple Alex and Melanie Moir called for an ambulance when the baby was born early, at home, and not breathing or moving. Melanie, a midwife, knew they had to call for an ambulance but the operator could not tell them if an ambulance was on the way or how long it would be. The couple ended up driving themselves to the nearest hospital, Melanie administering CPR.

The ABC reported that the little boy, Ethan, survived, but their experience showed the health system was in crisis.

This was during the peak case numbers for the Omicron variant of Covid when case numbers of over 25,000 (January 11, 2022) per day were being announced, and 48,768 new cases just days later (January 15, 2022) along with hundreds of deaths. A NSW Ambulance spokesperson said then the seven-day rolling average for triple zero calls was more than 4,500 every day and around one in every five calls do not require an emergency response.

On February 17th, 2022 the NSW Government announced 153 new paramedic interns graduating that day, with a further 80 paramedic interns beginning four weeks of intensive induction next week, and 58 already on the road. 

This was the same date APA (NSW) members voted almost unanimously in favour of Paramedics refusing staff movements for 24 hours (February 17, 2022).

Although the 'Omicron surge' appears to be decreasing, new variants are beginning to impact on the community as we head into flu season. 

Last week, Wednesday March 16, the state government has announced South-western Sydney communities can look forward to accessing more first class health services close to home, with construction beginning on a six-storey hospital tower as part of the $790 million Liverpool Health and Academic Precinct.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the new hospital would deliver enhanced health facilities and will include an integrated cancer centre, a larger emergency department, intensive care unit and more theatres.

"The $790 million health and academic precinct the NSW Government is building here at Liverpool is one of the largest hospital redevelopments across the state – and will transform healthcare services in this rapidly growing part of Sydney," Mr Perrottet said.

"We have the best health system in the nation and we are ensuring that no matter where you live in our State you have access to the best healthcare facilities."

The new hospital will also include a larger neonatal intensive care unit and six new in-patient units including paediatric, maternity and women's health services – all designed to cater to the area's growing population, a NSW Health statement says. A new multi-storey car park, which is nearing completion, will also provide an additional 500 spaces across the campus.

Minister for Health Brad Hazzard and Member for Holsworthy Melanie Gibbons turned the sod on the site of the new hospital tower and toured the project's 'Buraga Gul' skilling and employment hub last Wednesday - this hub will focus on driving education and jobs throughout construction and beyond.

Mr Hazzard said the new precinct in the heart of Liverpool would be an attractive drawcard for clinicians, specialists, researchers and educators locally and worldwide, which would boost the community and deliver better long term health outcomes.

"The NSW Government is investing an unprecedented $790 million into south-western Sydney to meet the community's healthcare needs and also provide employment opportunities for our future generations of nurses, doctors, researchers and educators," Mr Hazzard said.

Liverpool Hospital is a public hospital.

Ms Korzy also cites a shortage of hospital staff and beds at both Royal North Shore and Northern Beaches Hospitals during the Covid pandemic, with many hours’ wait for beds, also points to the urgent need for expansion of acute services within the LGA. 

Projected population growth in our area will also drive the necessity for new acute facilities on the coastal strip, with the current population of 272,322 projected to reach 312,503 by 2041, an increase of nearly 15 per cent. 

Councillor Korzy points out that the Covid pandemic has also changed people’s working habits, with a boom in the numbers of people making the area their permanent home and often their workplace. Added to this the Pittwater area attracts a large transient population that grows over summer, during holidays and weekends, many of whom participate in activities with inherent risks of drowning and injuries - including surfing, boating and mountain bike riding. 

Councillor Korzy's Motion states that local residents and others requiring hospital care should not need a credit card to access health facilities so we must ensure that services introduced or returned to Mona Vale Hospital are public. 

''This site, which has provided public hospital services for more than 50 years, will be required to do so again in the future - and must not become a private health precinct. Residents need our council to advocate for this.'' Cr. Korzy stated.

Parry Thomas, Chairman of the Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee, stated yesterday (March 19, 2022) that;

''The Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee strongly supports Cr. Korzy’s motion and encourages all Councillors to vote for the motion.''

''The Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee with the support of a huge number of Northern Beaches residents, has been fighting for the retention of hospital services at Mona Vale Hospital and for the protection of the hospital land for well over 20 years.''

''The campaign to save the hospital was very strongly supported by Pittwater Council, who were not only responding to the wishes of the Pittwater residents, but also recognised the importance of the services provided by the hospital and the very significant contribution Mona Vale Hospital made to the Pittwater economy. Mona Vale Hospital was the largest employer in the Pittwater LGA and also used the services of many local businesses. Without Pittwater Council’s support it is unlikely the site would still be in public hands and still providing non-acute hospital services.'' Mr Thomas said

''NSW Health made a decision to close and demolish the acute hospital at Mona Vale, they then earmarked the site for private development. This is exactly what NSW Health did with Prince Henry Hospital, at Little Bay. They closed, sold and developed it into a housing estate. Community anger and action resulted in the NSW Government agreeing to retain Mona Vale as a non-acute hospital.

''NSW Health never gave up on the idea of privatising as much of the site and services as possible, so they developed a plan to offer long term leases to selected parties, to build on the site and operate “health related services”. These services were never fully defined. 

The community made it very clear that they wanted the site retained for public health services. They especially wanted the footprint of the former acute hospital retained as open space, to ensure that when the time came for a new acute hospital, the land would be available for its construction.

I had many meetings and discussions with our local member, Mr Rob Stokes, on this subject and, on more than one occasion, he stated his support for retaining a large “Village Green”. At one meeting, he indicated to me that he felt it was essential, because it was inevitable that, in the future, the land will be needed for a public acute hospital.

It has long been recognised that The Mona Vale Hospital site is an ideal location for an acute hospital serving the needs of the Northern Beaches Community. With the relocation of acute services to the Northern Beaches Hospital many Pittwater residents’ access to these services have been severely degraded, a situation made infinitely worse at times of bushfires and floods.'' Mr. Thomas said

The Hon. Rob Stokes, MP for Pittwater, now serving as the New South Wales Minister for Infrastructure, the Minister for Cities, and the Minister for Active Transport, has reiterated again and again over many years that the Mona Vale Hospital campus will not be sold and will retain its public ownership status. The Pittwater MP's advocacy has seen the fulfilment of work commenced by the Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary for Palliative Care on the campus, has incorporated the use of solar power, a new support services building, the opening of a brand spanking new Community Health Centre with a range of services for the community was a very good day. 

A/Professor Richard West AM MB BS FRCS FRACS, VMO Surgeon Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, said on Saturday, he supports Cr. Korzy's call for Mona Vale Hospital.

''Mona Vale Public Hospital has been providing quality healthcare to the Northern Beaches community for over 50 years and will continue to do so in the future.''

Mona Vale Public Hospital is a high-level rehabilitation and sub-acute hospital with more than 250 staff providing services including:

  • 56-bed inpatient rehabilitation and assessment
  • 10-bed inpatient and outpatient palliative care
  • 10-bed inpatient geriatric evaluation and management
  • 24/7 Urgent Care Centre
  • Community Health Services
  • Radiology, pathology and pharmacy
  • A dental clinic
  • Ambulance
  • Helipad

These services are the responsibility of the New South Wales Department of Health. These vital services are not provided at the Privately operated Northern Beaches Hospital.'' Mr. West said 

''The Northern Beaches is unique in that it does not have a fully functioning public hospital.''

I have over 40 years experience working as a surgeon in the public hospital system in Sydney.

There should be no privately operated services at the Mona Vale hospital site. Any private medical services should be on private land.'' A/Prof. West stated

''Following the recent floods the Wakehurst pathway needs to be urgently made completely flooded proof and upgraded.

I strongly support the motion before the council that Council advocate with the NSW and federal governments to:

  1. Retain the entirety of the Mona Vale hospital site in public ownership.
  2. For the footprint of the now demolished main hospital building and emergency ward to be maintained as open land for the rebuilding of a new public acute services hospital.
  3. For any further development on the hospital land to be for public health services only.''

There have been no recent announcements made following on from earlier statements that Registrations of Interest had been sought by the government for private facilities/operators on the Mona Vale campus nor any follow up on the announcements that 20 entities had expressed interest.

Council's March 2022 Meeting will convene this coming Tuesday, March 22nd. The full Agenda may be accessed on Council's website under the 'Meetings' tab.

On Thursday, February 4th, 2021, the Palliative Care Unit on the Mona Vale Hospital Campus was officially opened. Pittwater MP Rob Stokes, Wakehurst MP Brad Hazzard, Manly MP James Griffin.