A $300 million proposal for Shellharbour Hospital could double its size from approximately 150 to 330 beds, providing an additional 500 jobs for healthcare workers across the district.
The Shellharbour Hospital Service Plan released by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) calls for a $250-$300 million upgrade of the hospital.
The plan follows on from the blueprint released last October, which looked at future healthcare needs across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.
ISLHD board chairman Denis King said the Shellharbour Hospital redevelopment was the board's first priority.
Services on the drawing board for Shellharbour include 24-hour emergency surgery, an intensive care unit, increased theatre capacity and enhanced rehabilitation, geriatric care, outpatient, paediatric and diagnostic capabilities.
"Overall, the size and capability of the hospital will be increased to include more beds, more emergency treatment spaces, more clinics, more outpatient services and more surgical capacity," Professor King said.
This would reduce the need for patients to be transferred to Wollongong or Sydney.
"Much of the work that goes into the emergency department, for example, has to be transferred to Wollongong Hospital because the back-up services aren't present in Shellharbour," Prof King said.
"Part of the redevelopment is to expand the acute surgical and medical inpatient capabilities, which will mean a high number of those patients will be able to be managed at Shellharbour.
"This in turn would reduce pressure on Wollongong Hospital's emergency department.
"One of the most effective ways to fix our problems at Wollongong is to have the work that should be done at Shellharbour actually done there," Prof King said.
The NSW government has committed $10 million to the project and yesterday appointed a design team of architects, project managers and cost managers to complete the redevelopment planning.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner welcomed the plan without committing the government.
"I'm pleased the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District has finalised and released the Shellharbour Hospital Service Plan," she said.
"It is absolutely essential that we plan for the future of healthcare in this state and the sustainability of our health facilities forms part of this planning."
Member for Shellharbour Anna Watson also welcomed the plan but called on the government to commit to the full cost of the redevelopment.
"The most important element of the upgrade plan for Shellharbour Hospital is the funding of it," she said.
"The road map to fund a likely $250-$300 million investment is so far missing from the NSW government."
The process for securing the capital works funding for the redevelopment is likely to take a further 12 months.
What the Shellharbour Hospital redevelopment plan would mean:
• Increased number of beds from 150 to 330
• 24-hour emergency surgery
• Intensive care unit
• Psychiatric emergency care centre
• Rehabilitation, geriatric and palliative care services
• Enhanced range of procedural and diagnostic services such as endoscopy, colonoscopy, nuclear medicine and pathology services
• Expanded operating theatres
• Expanded day surgery unit
• Specialised inpatient capacity for renal medicine and expanded renal dialysis
• Community health facility