I share new Tasmanian Health Minister Michael Ferguson’s assessment that the situation with the rebuild of the Royal Hobart Hospital is “appalling.”
The need for the rebuild is pressing and self-evident. That’s why I made it one of my top priorities for federal funding and secured $340m after the 2010 federal election, most of which has been sitting in the Tasmanian Treasury for years.
But, despite the importance of the fully funded project, it’s about 20 months behind schedule and, as we’ve learned from the State Government’s report today, beset by a string of problems.
Governance of the project is unsatisfactory and much of the contingency reserve budget is now spent. Moreover Mr Ferguson has advised me today that the temporary patient accommodation plan – decanting – is in need of review.
In other words the rebuild is a mess and the previous State Government misled the community every time it claimed the project was on track, and every time it rebutted my concerns and criticisms.
I do not criticise Health Department or RHH officials for this appalling situation. They are doing their very best in difficult circumstances.
At the heart of the problem is the complete absence of strong and effective political leadership of the project under the previous State Government. The Premier and the Health Minister should have gripped this up, they didn’t and the Tasmanian community is all the poorer for it.
The pressure is now on the new State Government to get the rebuild of the Royal Hobart Hospital back on track. The project’s simply too important for the health of the community, and for the State Budget, to be allowed to continue to bumble on the way it has so far.