Church grants hope for hospital

THE FUTURE of Maryborough’s St Stephen’s Hospital was yesterday looking solid for at least the next two years as UnitingCare Health edged closer to making a final decision on whether to build its new $50 million hospital in Hervey Bay.

“We are working as hard as we can on the decision to build a new St Stephen’s Hospital in Hervey Bay, based on the best interests of all residents in the Fraser Coast region,” UnitingCare Health CEO Richard Royle said.

“We’re expecting to make a decision on a new hospital in the near future.”

Mr Royle confirmed that the existing St Stephen’s Hospital would not close before any new hospital opened – and the Chronicle understands a new hospital would take two years to open from the day the decision to build it was taken.

Mr Royle said that if a new hospital in Hervey Bay went ahead, options for the future use of the existing St Stephen’s hospital building would be “examined closely”.

The church planned to provide a health facility “larger in scale and with a higher range of acute clinical services for all the residents of the Fraser Coast”, he said.

“Overall we recognise this is one of the fastest growing regional areas in Australia. Importantly, we must plan for an increased need in acute hospital beds, increased demand on resources and technology and the availability of medical specialists.”

Mr Royle said he understood concerns raised about future private hospital services in Maryborough.

However UnitingCare Health needed to consider future medical needs across the region.

“The reality is that we are seeking to increase private health resources in the region and that will benefit all the Fraser Coast. We want to attract more specialists, more highly-skilled nursing staff and provide more acute services in the coming years.

“That means less reliance on the public health system and potentially less need for people in the region to travel to Brisbane for acute private health care.

“I’m still working through the best options.”

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