Page MP Janelle Saffin has welcomed a joint Federal-State announcement that Lahey Constructions Pty Ltd will start the main building works for a major upgrade of Grafton Base Hospital in the New Year.

Ms Saffin said she was delighted that work on one of her key election commitments – new operating theatres and a new emergency department – was expected to start in January 2010, and if all went according to plan, would be completed by early 2011.

Ms Saffin today joined Federal Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon and NSW Minister for Health Carmel Tebbutt in announcing this milestone in the project, which has a total cost of $19.735 million.

“My original election commitment was for $18 million, and I convinced project managers Health Infrastructure NSW to direct $1.2 million in interest earned to further consolidate this very important project for Grafton and the Clarence Valley,” she said.

The NSW Government has contributed a further $500,000 towards the planning process.

Ms Saffin paid tribute to Grafton Base’s clinicians, particularly Medical Staff Council Chair Dr Allan Tyson, nurses and administrative staff for their efforts in ensuring that the local community will get access to top-level health care.

“I also value the contributions of the Grafton Community Health Committee, led by Shirley Adams OAM, Clarence Valley Mayor Cr Richie Williamson, Health Infrastructure NSW, and the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS), including its Clarence-based Advisory Council member Sandra Woods,” she said.

“Grafton Base plays a vital role in providing for the majority of acute health needs for more than 50,000 people who live in the Valley and these facilities will help relieve some of the pressure on health services.”

Ms Saffin said the Rudd Government was committed to nationwide health reform and had already taken action by:

·       Increasing health and hospitals funding by 50 per cent to a record $64 billion.

·       A $600-million injection to cut elective surgery waiting time.

·       More funds to train much needed doctors and nurses.

·       $3.2 billion for additional health infrastructure.