By MICK ROBERTS
ALMOST 130 years of history will come to an end next month when the old Bulli Hospital is expected to be decommissioned.
A new $50 million Bulli Hospital and Aged Care Centre will replace the old hospital on a new site located on the opposite side of the road.
While welcoming new facilities, concern has been growing over the future of the original two hectare (almost five acre) hospital site, partly purchased from community funds, and partly donated by early land owners.
The NSW Government has been urged to preserve the rich heritage of the Bulli Hospital before a decision is made to sell-off the site.
A year after the 1887 Bulli Mine Disaster, a methane gas explosion that killed 81 men and boys, the community gathered for a meeting to push for public a hospital for the region.
The Bulli Cottage Hospital was officially opened on May 20, 1893, chiefly from funds raised by local coal miners, who sacrificed part of their wages. The hospital was built by the community through fundraising efforts. It consisted of a five-bed male ward and two-bed female ward. By 1908 an additional male ward and operating theatre were also opened.
State MP for Keira, Ryan Park has called for the facility’s rich heritage to be remembered, and asked the NSW Government to “hold-off” plans to sell the old site on Hospital Road.
“I am aware they have plans to sell off the site. The Government has advised me that the site may need contamination remediation work prior to the disposal of the site,” Mr Park told the Bulli & Clifton Times.
“I have urged the Government to hold off the sell off until an assessment is undertaken after the hospital has been operating. I am not convinced there is sufficient parking and the old site could easily be used for parking.”
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Executive Director Infrastructure Development Suzanne Harris said there are no formal heritage-listed items on the old Bulli Hospital site. However, parts of the old hospital clearly date back to early last century, and many architectural features are clearly evident from that era.
“The Local Health District has undertaken a heritage review of the existing Bulli Hospital precinct,” Ms Harris said.
“ISLHD is reviewing the artwork depicting the original facility and a selection of archived information and pictures will be on display in the new hospital to commemorate the hospital’s history.”
A Wollongong City Council spokesperson said the hospital is not listed as a heritage item under the Wollongong Local Environmental Plan 2009 or any other statutory heritage list, and that the NSW Government (Department of Health) has specific legislative responsibilities for the identification and management of significant heritage assets under the NSW Heritage Act.
Mr Park meanwhile said he has not been made aware of any heritage items on the site.
“I would expect the Government to be open, transparent and sensitive to any historically sensitive items,” he said.
The Bulli & Clifton Times asked the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District what the intentions are for the old site. Ms Harris said ISLHD is continuing to work with the NSW Ministry of Health and Health Infrastructure, and will consult with Department of Planning, Infrastructure and Environment, on plans for the old Bulli Hospital site in line with NSW Government guidelines and procedures.
A Wollongong City Council spokesperson said Bulli Hospital is located on several lots of about two hectares or almost five acres of land, all zoned low-density residential, with a variety of permissible land uses.
“Council has not had any discussions with developers regarding the future use of the site,” the Council spokesperson said.
Mr Park said after concerns were raised over the future of the old site by his constituents he wrote to the Minister for Health and to the CEO of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.
Mr Park has requested that prior to selling off the land that sufficient parking be set aside for the new facility.
“I reminded the Government that Bulli Hospital was built by the local community and the proceeds should be reinvested back in the community that paid for it in the first place,” he said.
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