Hospital battle: Bundy v Fraser population growth revealed
The Fraser Coast's population rate is expected to grow at a faster rate than Bundaberg's a new report reveals.
Compiled by the State Government's statistician's office, the Queensland Regional Profiles report details projected population figures and reveals that unlike the 2016-21 model, which had Bundaberg's growth ahead, the Fraser Coast is expected to take the lead going forward.
Fraser Coast councillor David Lee believes this only adds weight to the argument Bundaberg is no longer the appropriate place for the region's only Level 5 hospital and the site of the current Hervey Bay hospital is not going to be able to meet demand in the future.
According to the report, the population of the Fraser Coast will, by 2041, have increased from 102,953 to 130,630.
In the next five years the population of the Bundaberg region is expected to be at 105,982 compared to 113,679 on the Fraser Coast.
By 2031 the predicted comparison is 110,814 in Bundaberg, Fraser Coast, 120,159.
The population in 2036 for Bundaberg is expected to be 115,365 with the Fraser Coast at 125,633.
Asked whether these fresh figures impacted planning for the region's hospitals, Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service maintained its position that a whole of region approach needed to be taken by a body which served 219,000 people across a geographical area of approximately 37,000 square kilometres, including the Bundaberg, Fraser Coast and North Burnett local government areas, and part of the Gladstone local government area.
WBHHS Board Chair Peta Jamieson said the development of a detailed business case to investigate the delivery of a new public hospital on a new site in Bundaberg was well under way and due to be presented to the Queensland Government this year.
She said the business case would be informed by "comprehensive analysis of the social, economic, sustainability and financial impacts of the proposed hospital, and would help the government make informed decisions about the future design, staging and funding of the project".
Along with population growth and an ageing and low socio-economic population, the Bundaberg Hospital Redevelopment project aims to address several other factors including ageing infrastructure, ongoing maintenance of buildings, some dating back to the early 1900s, and flood risk.
There's also significant capacity issues at the current site which is nearly full.
"The business case also proposes to expand the number and complexity of specialist services that can be delivered closer to home for all WBHHS patients. This includes specialist services that patients within our regional catchment, including those on the Fraser Coast, must currently travel to Brisbane to receive," Ms Jamieson said
"It's also important to remember that Bundaberg Hospital does not only service patients residing in Bundaberg. The hospital provides a range of acute, subacute and community services across a larger geographical area including patients from our North Burnett and Discovery Coast communities."
Cr Lee accepted Bundaberg needed a new hospital but said it was the push for Level 5 services there which needed to be questioned given the Fraser Coast was now the projected centre of population growth for the Wide Bay region
He said those numbers also brought home the significance of similar capacity issues at the Hervey Bay site to those currently being used to justify the move to a bigger site in Bundaberg.
He said if WBHHS was serious about its strategic health service theme 'right care, right place, and right time' it would tell the Wide Bay community what they meant by 'right care at the right place' and which specific Level 5 services were planned for Bundaberg along with sharing master plans for the region's three major hospitals including at Hervey Bay and Maryborough.
"At the outset, Bundaberg community needs a new hospital," he said
"The WBHHS 2018-2023 Strategic Directions document describes the new Bundaberg Hospital as a 'Level 5 Hospital'.
"This statement implies that the new Bundaberg Hospital will provide a comprehensive range of Level 5 services such as intensive care, cardiology, neurology and so on. Now is the 'right time' to explain to the Wide Bay Community what level 5 services will be provided at the new Bundaberg Hospital".
"Master planning is a key deliverable in both the 2019-2032 Health Services Plan and the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. Yet the Hospital Masterplans do not appear to be available to the public.
"It appears that WBHHS's Fraser Coast's masterplan is a highly reactive strategy of repurposing existing buildings, demolishing old buildings and constructing new buildings subject to the availability of space."
Cr Lee also maintained there was a need to consider a business case for a new Hervey Bay hospital site and that the current Tafe Queensland Hervey Bay campus located on Urraween Road remained a good option because of its space and proximity to the health precinct.
Ms Jamieson also held her line that planning for Bundaberg did not deny the importance of the Fraser Coast communities or health facilities.
"A significant body of work has been undertaken to understand the role each facility plays in the delivery of health services, what impacts projected growth and changing demographics will have on each facility along with their current condition and ability to be modified," she said
"This important planning works provides a road map to the guide the management of existing
infrastructure and building assets on our sites to address capacity and infrastructure pressures in the short and long term to ensure we can adequately respond to future demand."
Ms Jamieson said in recent years Fraser Coast facilities had received the bulk of infrastructure investment in the region, flagging upgrades of both the Hervey Bay and Maryborough emergency departments and recent wins like the construction of a new mental health facility.
She also said the WBHHS would continue to work with the council.
"During a very recent presentation at a Fraser Coast Regional Council meeting, Debbie Carroll, Chief Executive, and I provided attendees with details regarding the current and future plans as well as committing to working collaboratively with the FCRC on future planning initiatives," she said
"We acknowledge the Fraser Coast region's growing and ageing population and will continue to invest in and plan for projects at both Hervey Bay and Maryborough hospitals - whether that be through refurbishment and vertical expansion - to manage future growth as the demands exist."