DEPARTING Local MP Andrew Stoner saved his last dance until Valentine's Day, but the sweetheart gift was well worth the wait as a stunning $50 million major upgrade of Macksville Hospital was announced today.
While Mr Stoner largely took a back role to his continuing Nationals colleagues, there was no doubting that the retiring Member for Oxley had been instrumental in securing the funding for the dilapidated facility.
Money for Macksville Hospital had been first promised last year, however community angst gradually intensified as the months dragged on without specifics as to the size or delivery of the cash.
Some will point to the March State Election as the catalyst for the timing, yet that is by the by for the Nambucca community who are delighted, even overwhelmed by the largesse.
It's been a long grassroots campaign to secure an investment in Macksville Hospital - two large public meetings and pressure from all sorts of community groups from local clubs to chambers of commerce.
Despite the assurances that money would be coming for the Macksville facility, residents fretted as investments in neighbouring health facilities at Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Bellingen and Port Macquarie were announced.
But the size of today's injection for Macksville has delighted - with many local lobbyists hoping for a bare minimum of $15-20 million.
All of the Nationals big guns were pleased to verbal their support for the Macksville project - from party Leader Troy Grant through to Melinda Pavey who will carry the baton for the Coalition in the seat of Oxley at the election when Mr Stoner's long and distinguished political career will come to an end.
The Liberals too, through Health Minister Jillian Skinner, celebrated.
The $50m funding is of course contingent on the Coalition being returned to Government at the March poll.
“Labor failed to deliver significant health upgrades for the Mid North Coast for 16 years,” Mr Grant said.
“Since coming to Government we have prioritised Port Macquarie, Kempsey and now Macksville Hospital for much needed upgrades. The redevelopment will enhance patient care at Macksville Hospital while also improving ambulatory care and outpatient treatments.”
Mrs Skinner said the Macksville community has some unique health challenges, including chronic illness and complex health needs due to its significant aged and Aboriginal population, which is why the upgrade was vital.
“The current hospital must be redeveloped to ensure it can deliver contemporary health care for best patient outcomes,” Mrs Skinner said.
Ms Pavey, the Parliamentary Secretary for Rural and Regional Health, said there was not a person in the community who did not recognise the need for Macksville Hospital to be redeveloped to meet future health needs.
“The upgrade of Macksville Hospital will attract quality health staff to live and work in our region and ensure our hard-working doctors, nurses and others have a workplace they can be proud of,” she said.
“I’m pleased the Government is committed to the major upgrade of Macksville Hospital. This is a project which will bring our hospital and health care into the 21st century.
“At Kempsey, we are also delivering an unprecedented $80.9 million upgrade of the hospital to ensure it can meet the health needs of Mid North Coast communities now and in the future.
“I pay tribute to Jillian Skinner and retiring local member Andrew Stoner who together have ensured Port Macquarie, Kempsey and Macksville Hospitals all received significant upgrades.”
Mr Stoner said he was proud he was part of a Government that had delivered for the Mid North Coast and Oxley electorate.
“I’m incredibly proud the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government has committed funding to make Macksville’s hospital redevelopment a reality,” Mr Stoner said.