BEST OF SERIES: Gladstone MP says it's time to buy hospital
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This story was originally published on March 30, 2020.
NOW is the time for the State Government to buy Gladstone's private hospital, according to MP Glenn Butcher.
The Observer can reveal Mr Butcher will today write to Health Minister Stephen Miles and Treasurer and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad calling for the government to buy Gladstone Mater Hospital which has been on the market since March 2019.
Mr Butcher said discussions were being held on how Gladstone Mater could be used to assist the region's response to COVID-19, following the cancellation of non-urgent surgeries to free-up the 33 hospital beds.
He said the virus pandemic was the latest example of why the Queensland Government should buy the hospital.
Mr Butcher said if state-owned, it would be easier to use the hospital as part of Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service's COVID-19 response.
Once the virus passes, he said the hospital could operate as a public and private facility in partnership with a private operator.
"Because we'll likely be using the Mater … now is the time for the (State) to buy the facility," he said.
It has been estimated the hospital could cost up to $20 million and Mr Butcher said there was new health funding, announced by the Queensland Government recently, part of which could be used for the purchase.
"We have been negotiating with the Mater this whole time, but now we've really seen the need for the support this hospital provides for the Gladstone Hospital," he said.
"To see the hospital shut down would be a tragedy.
"For the price, to get 33 beds and two operating theatres, which could be used for specialists … it's a good price compared to what you would spend building a new hospital.
"Just the two operating theatres would cost double, if not triple, to build."
The request follows ongoing calls from the Gladstone health sector for hospital upgrades and an Intensive Care Unit.
"We've heard loud and clear from the doctors in Gladstone … and if we can get this facility it gives us options to set it up as an ICU in the future," he said.
Last week the Queensland Government announced a $4 billion COVID-19 economic relief package, including $1.2 billion to increase Queensland health system's capacity to confront the pandemic, part of which Mr Butcher said could be used to buy the hospital.
"It's critical now that I go public and make sure everyone knows I'm pushing for this purchase," he said.
"The staff of the Mater are uncertain of their future and we need to make sure they can continue on, with either a private provider or the opportunity to work for the public hospital."
Mercy Health and Aged Care put the hospital on the market in March, 2019 following the closure of maternity services in October, 2018 and a reduction in opening hours in February, 2019.