It will take $1 million to get Wollongong Hospital's 'ghost ward' back up and running - but the NSW Ministry of Health is yet to deliver the funds.
The Mercury understands the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District has requested the funds to refurbish the hospital's oldest ward, B7, to make 25 additional beds available.
The outdated ward was decommissioned once the new wards opened in the hospital's Illawarra Elective Surgical Services centre in 2015.
But unprecedented demand on the hospital - and an unseasonal and unexpected spike in flu presentations - has seen calls for the ward to be reopened as a matter of urgency.
"I can't believe given all the pressures on Wollongong Hospital that the government can't find $1 million to reopen this ward," Wollongong MP Paul Scully said.
"The government has committed to a $10.1 billion spend on hospital upgrades across the state over the next term, so this would be a relatively small amount.
"One extra bed would make a difference - 25 would make a considerable difference.
"It's not the solution to all the issues at the hospital but it would help, particularly with the high demand due to this year's flu season."
Last week, Wollongong Hospital acting general manager David Jeffery said the health district had invested an additional $2 million in strategies to manage increased patient demand over winter, including extra staff.
Mr Jeffery said in the last week of June, more than 1400 patients presented to the hospital's emergency department, "some of the highest numbers throughout the ED this year".
Mr Scully said presentations to Wollongong's ED were "relentless in their climb" - increasing by 21 per cent in the past three years.
Meantime, patients faced among the highest waits in the state - with more than four out of 10 waiting for longer than four hours in the ED.
"There were nearly 18,000 presentations to Wollongong's ED in the January to March quarter - and that was summer," he said.
"There's now an average of 1400 presentations a week which has a huge impact on the hospital.
"Those sorts of figures simply can't be sustained without opening up new beds.
"So for the government to hold back on, or reject, a request of $1 million is unfathomable - I'd like to see its excuse for not freeing up those funds."
There's long been calls for the unoccupied or ghost ward to be reopened, with Northern Illawarra Hospital Group general manager Nicole Sheppard previously telling the Mercury: "The decommissioned ward does provide the hospital with future options to consider in times of high demand, however the ward will require refurbishment".
NSW Health would not answer specific questions from the Mercury about the ward, and whether the $1 million would be made available for its refurbishment.
"The ISLHD manages patient flow in the ED in a number of ways and speaks regularly with the NSW Ministry about its operations," a spokesperson said.
"Budgetary decisions for the LHD are made public each year in the service agreements."