The premiers of New South Wales and Victoria have announced a joint plan to fund a $558m redevelopment of the Albury Base hospital to improve healthcare in the border region.
The announcement, from two leaders on opposite sides of the political aisle who have developed a strong history of collaboration, comes a month out from the Victorian election and four months ahead of the NSW state poll.
Both states will chip in $225m for the redevelopment, in addition to the $108m already allocated by the NSW and commonwealth governments, with construction to begin next year. It is slated to be completed by 2027.
The NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, said the project served as a “great example of cooperation across political lines” to get results for people in the border region.
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His Victorian counterpart, Daniel Andrews, added that it was important to ensure community members and healthcare professionals “have the facilities they need”.
An intensive care unit and updated maternity and paediatric facilities will be part of a new clinical services building to be built at the existing site, where a new helipad will also be installed.
It is hoped the development will also mean the region is better able to attract and retain skilled medical staff amid a nationwide shortage and continued pressure on health systems.
Albury-Wodonga hospital services are jointly funded by the Victorian and NSW governments but run by Victoria. Services are split between two campuses, and patients are often required to travel to receive treatments.
Wodonga, on the Victorian side of the border, forms part of the Benambra electorate, currently held by the Liberal MP Bill Tilley on a 2.6% margin. The seat has been held by the Liberals and other conservative parties all the way back to its formation in 1877.
But at the November state election, Tilley faces a strong challenge from Jacqui Hawkins, who is contesting Benambra as an independent for the second time. She considers herself a “yellow” independent – more akin to federal MP Helen Haines – rather than a “teal”.
The Coalition must retain the seat if it is to form government and the party had already committed to spending $300m towards a new hospital, or one-third of the final expense, relying for the rest on support from NSW and the commonwealth.
The Albury Base hospital will continue to function until the completion of the project.