It is a great comfort to know that children’s services will be substantially expanded once the $632 million Stage 2 redevelopment of Campbelltown is done and dusted in the next few years.
Paediatric beds will almost triple from 22 to 60 and every year an additional 4,000 children will be treated locally, including those with complex conditions and serious diseases.
Other highlights include the addition of close observation beds for more seriously ill children and the expansion of paediatric surgical services, reducing the need for transfers to other hospitals.
But one thing the $632 million won’t buy is an intensive care unit (ICU) for children.
In its statement on the issue, the health department relies on the figures of local children who spent time in a paediatric ICU over a 12 month period.
It says that out of the total 2,082 children in NSW who spent time in a paediatric ICU, 112 children came from the Camden, Campbelltown, Wollondilly and Wingecarribee areas.
That represents around five percent of the total.
But what the health department did not consider was the projected population growth of the Macarthur region and the Wingecarribee Shire – essentially the Southern Highlands.
By 2036 the combined population of the two regions will be nudging one million residents.
You don’t need to be Einstein to work out the number of local children who will require treatment in an intensive care unit in 2040.
It’s true that an ICU is a very expensive exercise, with some estimates of $1 million per bed.
A four bed ICU a Campbelltown Hospital would cost $32 million over eight years – why not use the $32 million from the $632 million allocated for the entire project?
Eight years later it will be a lot easier to continue funding an ICU.
It’s good to see real community leaders such as Dr Mike Freelander and veteran councillor and former mayor Paul Lake fighting for the inclusion of an ICU at the bigger and better Campbelltown Hospital.
It’s a pity other so called community leaders are more interested in talking about progress in our community than doing anything about it.
I hope Cr Lake and Dr Freelander continue to fight the good fight, especially in trying to find the money needed to set up an ICU.
The health department in the meantime should keep an open mind about a children’s ICU, especially in these early days of planning for the massive expansion of Campbelltown Hospital.