THE Katherine hospital will receive $7.7million in the NT Government’s 2012 Budget to build a 12-room accommodation block.
Katherine Mayor and former hospital board member Fay Miller said it was a “pleasant surprise” to learn of the funding allocation, but that in the longer term it would do nothing to ease concerns about the hospital’s precarious location.
“The hospital does need to be moved and I’ve advocated this for past 10 years,” Ms Miller said.
“There is no money allocated in the budget for relocation.”
Ms Miller said the relocation of all of Katherine’s emergency service providers has become something of a crusade for her.
She said St Johns Ambulance, the police and fire station complex and the hospital were all exposed to high flood risk, and she pointed out the irony of the town’s emergency service bases being the first to be hit by disaster in the face of flood events.
The building location for the hospital’s new accommodation facility has not yet been specified, and Ms Miller said she hoped it would at least be clearly out of the major flood zone.
“We want Katherine to be a major hub, and I feel very disappointed that the question of relocation hasn’t been addressed.
“With $7 million allocated for accommodation, I’d be disappointed if it’s built in a flood area.
Minister for Health Kon Vatskalis said the $7.7 million would provide an extra 24 beds in a 12-bedroom short-term patient accommodation block, butthe Minister made no mention of other future plans for the hospital.
While the issue has been repeatedly raised at the time of each local election, no approach to tackle the issue has been made by the Territory government.
“It’s very distressing for patients and staff,” Ms Miller said.
“In a time of crisis you don’t want to be worried about evacuating a hospital.
“It’s the same for the ambulance service.”
The Mayor said that should the hospital be moved to higher ground, the existing site would not go to waste.
“It would still make an ideal training centre and accommodation for visiting specialists and trainers.”
The conspicuous absence of further government funding and planning for Katherine’s core emergency services is in sharp contrast with the government’s $12.3m investment for a new purpose-built Fire and Emergency Service facility at Berrimah in Darwin.