Maitland's new $470 million hospital is now complete and will have the capacity to care for COVID-19 patients from early next year.
Hunter New England Local Health District executive director of infrastructure, planning and sustainability, Ramsey Awad, confirmed the news this week.
He said building work was finished on the Metford site with significant work underway to prepare existing services and patients to be transferred into the new hospital in early 2022.
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The new hospital will include a new chemotherapy service and emergency short stay unit, as well as expanded surgical theatres, maternity and paediatric services, further enabling comprehensive, quality health care to communities in Maitland and the wider Hunter region now and well into the future.
"The new hospital will have capacity to care for COVID-19 patients, if required," Mr Awad said.
"The Hunter New England Health district has a pandemic plan in response to COVID-19 for all facilities, which is updated regularly, in line with the evolving nature of the COVID-19 virus."
The number of COVID beds at the new hospital will depend on demand.
Medical Controller, HNELHD COVID-19 response, Dr Paul Craven said the HNEH district has a pandemic plan in place for all its hospitals to respond to COVID-19, including workforce surge and demand management plans.
"We are also supported by our networked hospital system which ensures patients can be transferred or redirected to other hospitals where necessary," Dr Craven said.
"During 2020, we sourced additional equipment, including ventilators to address the surge in intensive care patients, should the pandemic spread across the region. We also have plans in place to surge staffing and intensive care capacity if and when it is required."
He said each hospital has a plan to provide ongoing care to a patient with COVID-19 or transfer that patient to a suitable hospital within the district.
"Our facilities also have suitable clinical spaces to appropriately care for patients with COVID-19, and our larger hospitals have identified surge capacity to accommodate larger patient numbers in wards, ICU, the emergency department and those being cared for at home.
"Our ICUs are networked with others across the state and are available to provide care as required.
"Hunter New England staff are trained in the management of COVID-19 and I am very proud of the way our staff have handled this evolving situation," Dr Craven said.
Furniture and furnishings are now being finalised in the new hospital, and major medical equipment is on track to be installed at the Metford Road facility in November.
Mr Awad said careful planning is underway to ensure the move into the new facility is as safe, efficient and smooth as possible.
"This is modelled on the successful recent transitions at Armidale, Tamworth and Macksville hospitals.
"There will be staff training and orientation, set up and stocking of new spaces, scenario testing and a move-day plan," Mr Awad said.
Work to deliver a new car park for patients, visitors and staff is progressing well.
Construction on the northern carpark is due to finish in November, and the eastern carpark scheduled to finish in January 2022, weather permitting.
The upgrade to the Chelmsford Drive roundabout is also complete with drivers able to use two traffic lanes from each of the three approaches.
The project team is working with Transport for NSW and road traffic authorities to ensure signage and other changes are made well in advance.
Prior to moving into the new space, patients and the community will be kept informed and provided with detailed advice on how to access the new hospital.
Once the new hospital opens in early 2022 and services have been transferred, the existing Maitland Hospital will be decommissioned.
The current hospital is operating at 97% capacity with little scope to cater for the region's growth, and further restricted by heritage issues.
There has been no announcement for the future use of the site but ideas ranging from an allied health precinct to a mental health or palliative care centre, museum or cultural hub, have been flagged.
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