Inverell Hospital redevelopment design triggers questions about catering for current and future needs

The head of Hunter New England Health has confirmed that the population figures used to design Inverell Hospital’s redevelopment will be reviewed in the wake of Monday’s night’s meeting with local medical and district representatives. 

The decision follows questions raised, particularly by local doctors, as to the new facility’s capacity to remedy shortcomings within the existing hospital and cater for the district’s future needs. 

“We will re-look at some of the data used in the design concept,” Hunter New England Health Chief Executive Michael Di Rienzo said. 

Three to four weeks has reportedly being allocated for the review process that will revisit the data available on Inverell’s population and demographics; the current activity levels at the hospital; and the newer trends in models of care. 

“The planning for this project started before 2016. Typically projects have a planning and completion life of around five years,” Mr Di Renzo said, noting that new data from the ABS 2016 Census will also be examined. 

The move appears to follow concerns that the underlying population figures used in the planning were incorrect and outdated. 

In an opinion piece published in the Inverell Times on Friday, October 6, community hospital advocate Bob Bensley, who was not present at Monday’s meeting, outlined his concerns that the redevelopment plans had been based on figures predicting a fall in the local population from between two to seven percent between 2006 and 2026. 

By contrast, Mr Bensley provided official figures showing a steady increase in Inverell’s population over the last 15 years - dating back well beyond the planning period for the current redevelopment. 

Mr Di Renzio said, however, that the department had used the standard approach and sources for determining population data. 

“At the end of the day we can only use the data we have,” he said. 

Mr Di Renzio said he hopes to hold another meeting in early November; and has asked the mayor and the doctors to “interrogate” the revised data. If “any significant changes” are found between the existing and revised information, “we’ll revisit the services and design of the hospital”, he said.