Wollongong Hospital and the surrounding medical services will be transformed into a "nationally significant" health precinct under a state government plan to ensure it can cater to the Illawarra's growing population.
In their new roles as planning and health ministers, Wollongong MP Paul Scully and Keira MP Ryan Park have heralded the first step in what they say will be a "considerable change" for the largest hospital in the region.
Mr Scully said the Metro Wollongong Health Precinct Strategy, which is in development by the government with a discussion paper to be released this year, would outline how the hospital will expand over the coming decades.
Previously, the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District identified that there would be 30,000 extra hospital admissions in the region by 2030, and Mr Scully said this would only grow into the future.
"With a considerable growth in hospital admissions expected over the next few years, it's important that we identify ways to improve access to the hospital to nearby medical facilities and better connect the health precinct with the train station and the CBD," he said.
"It's important that we look at it as a whole rather than just look at isolated individual developments and expansions in that area."
The Metro Wollongong Precinct Strategy was identified as part of the government's Regional Plan 2041 two years ago.
Mr Scully said it was expected that the hospital itself would grow, with the government working to identify sites for expansion, and that any future plans would also place a big emphasis on transport connections and housing for essential workers in the Wollongong CBD.
"This is a major centre, and it is under pressure and we've got to look at how that works," he said.
"But in looking at how you might expand the hospital, we've also got to look at how we can have a health workforce being able to live relatively nearby, and how [the hospital] connects to the city, transport and other health related services that have already sprung up around the hospital."
"What is being considered for the health precinct is a considerable change, not only in the delivery of services, but the connection and integration of that part of CBD with the rest of the city, and its connectedness with the rest of the Illawarra."
The strategy will also look at planning controls to encourage a mix of health and medical uses and higher density living, and how to maximise the region's health and medical research capabilities.
Mr Scully said the construction of the new Shellharbour Hospital and the Warrawong Community Health Facility would happen well before any major changes to Wollongong Hospital.
Wollongong council, the local health district and the state planning and transport department are in talks over the precinct plan.
A draft discussion paper on the vision, priorities and options for the precinct will be released for public comment later this year, and is anticipated to be finalised by the end of 2024.
Mr Park said allowing the hospital's eventual expansion would help accommodate the region's future health needs.
"This strategy will be invaluable in helping us to improve access to healthcare services for our growing community, ensuring we have world-class services available to meet the needs of staff, patients and their families," he said.