THE STATE Government has again bewildered the community in its choice of a site for the Eltham Area Community Hospital.
Minister for Health Martin Foley and Member for Eltham Vicki Ward have announced that a government-owned parcel of land at 405 Ryans Road, Diamond Creek, will be home to the new multi-million-dollar facility.
While the new hospital will be a welcome asset to the community, the selection process for the site has been nothing short of contentious.
While many see a no-brainer option in the Nillumbik Council’s preferred site, the former Council Offices in Main Road Eltham, the government has dismissed the option out of hand, first attempting to acquire land in Apollo Park, at Civic Drive, Greensborough, much to the dismay of residents.
With Council agreeing with the community and blocking the land sale for Civic Drive in late 2021, the selection committee has now returned with the announcement of the Diamond Creek location.
Documents seen by M&N Bulletin obtained under FOI by Friends of Apollo Parkway note that the Ryans Road location was ranked eighth out of 12 potential sites, scoring just 53 out of 100, whereas the Main Road site scored 85.
There is concern already from the community regarding the Ryans Road site’s lack of connection to public transport and other township infrastructure, its proximity to powerlines, that it sits across a wildlife corridor, and provides a home to kangaroos and Gang Gang Cockatoos.
When asked by M&N Bulletin if Council were supportive of the announcement, a spokesperson for Nillumbik Council said:
“The Eltham Area Community Hospital is a Victorian Government project that is being undertaken by the Victorian Health Building Authority.
Nillumbik Shire Council has not been involved in the decision to locate the hospital in Diamond Creek.
We are still to gain a comprehensive understanding of the proposal and its impacts and therefore cannot comment further.
However, we will be advocating for the best possible outcome for our local community as a result of the proposed development including an efficient and safe road network, and ensuring amenity impacts are minimised.
Nillumbik Shire Council welcomes any boost to heath care services in the north-east region that will benefit our community.”
We asked Ms Ward about some of these concerns expressed, she told us a number of sites were considered against a broad criteria, with Ryans Road chosen after meeting that criteria, including its location which is close to a range of community facilities and links to
“An ecological consultant will be undertaking a detailed survey of the Ryans Road site to provide advice on vegetation, wildlife and other ecological matters.
In response to questions about why the Main Road site was not considered, she said the old shire office site would require moving the protected Shillinglaw Trees, as well the sale of the kinder, memorial hall, and the senior citizens hall.
“There is also no guarantee Nillumbik would sell the site, as they refused to sell Apollo Parkways,” she said.
So it seems this is now a done deal.
To be operated by Austin Health, the Eltham area Community Hospital (interim name) will be a public hospital providing a range of day hospital and primary health care services, including unplanned urgent care, general medical and specialist appointments, day surgery and chronic disease management — what Ms Ward described as “a huge benefit for locals.”
She said the hospital’s strong links to specialists, community health and social support services will improve follow-up treatment and support for those requiring complex care.
Ms Ward said the Ryans Road site is close to a range of community facilities and services, including playgrounds, schools, and sporting facilities, and is serviced by several bus routes connecting to surrounding areas, including Eltham Station Greensborough, Diamond Creek and Hurstbridge.
“This location is a great outcome for our local community; it’ll mean we’ll be able to get a number of everyday health services close to home, without having to travel in traffic to the Austin or Northern Health,” Ms Ward said.
The new hospital is one of 10 new community hospitals in major growth areas, funded as part of a $675 million investment by the Labor Government.
Once complete, the 10 community hospitals will be able to treat at least 114,000 more urgent care patients and 55,000 dialysis treatments and enable more than 100,000 additional allied health sessions each year.
The Community Hospital Program will create an estimated 1,900 jobs during planning and construction and more than 1,000 healthcare jobs once completed.
Delivered by the Victorian Health Building Authority, the designs for the community hospital will be released later this year when construction begins.
The project is due for completion in late 2024.