By Shelby Brooks
The newly identified location of the future Pakenham Community Hospital has been criticised by the wider community after it was announced last week the old John Street Woolworths building would be razed to make way for it.
Lack of parking options and limited space for future growth were among the top concerns brought up since the block of land, (67-69 Main Street, Pakenham) was identified as the preferred site for the new multi-million-dollar facility on Thursday 17 June.
Woolworths John Street permanently shut down on 29 January 2019 and has stood empty since.
Cardinia Ratepayers and Residents Association secretary Cheryl Billing Smith described the decision as “ludicrous”.
“I am so stunned I am almost speechless,” Ms Billing Smith said.
Ms Billing Smith said she was “confused” as to why a medical facility would be built in a shopping precinct.
“It’s come completely out of left field. Why weren’t the people consulted?” she said.
“It’s not that we don’t need a comprehensive medical facility like this, but is this really the right place?
“It will bring people to that end of town, but that will mean traffic and congestion.”
The majority of Gazette Facebook readers shared similar sentiments.
Jenny Blackney wrote, “Personally I think it is a stupid idea, it is a shopping precinct so that’s what should go there, not a hospital and it’s way too small anyway.”
Dolly Kaye agreed.
“A waste of retail space. We are going backwards. We need hospital facilities but not in middle of shopping centre.”
But Henty Ward councillor Carol Ryan said she was thrilled to see years of campaigning bring the hospital one step closer to reality.
“It’s really fantastic, it was a long time coming. I’ve been advocating for many many years for services lacking in the community,” she said.
She was particularly pleased to see services included mental health for adults, drug and alcohol services and day chemotherapy.
“The location was a choice made by the DHHS. They made the decision believing it was the right one,” Ms Ryan said.
“I think people will be pleasantly surprised when it’s built.”
The Pakenham Community Hospital will be a small public hospital providing a range of services including chronic disease management like diabetes and cancer, various day procedures, family and early childhood services, alcohol and other drug services, dental services, pharmacy services, urgent care, specialist medical appointments and diagnostic services.
The project is expected to take pressure of nearby major hospitals including Casey Hospital.
Managed by Monash Health, the Pakenham Community Hospital would allow local communities to manage their everyday health needs, closer to home, Bass MP Jordan Crugnale said.
“The preferred location is in the heart of Pakenham meaning patients, visitors and staff can easily access the services, programs and care that this new Community Hospital will deliver,” she said.
The Victorian Government allocated $675 million to deliver 10 community hospitals in major growth areas.
Land is currently commercially owned and is in the process of being acquired.
As part of the planning for the new Pakenham Community Hospital, parking demand will be assessed to meet hospital requirements.
Delivered by the Victorian Health Building Authority, construction is expected to start in 2022 and be completed in 2024.
For more information on the Community Hospital including a list of proposed services please visit vhba.vic.gov.au/health/community-based-care/pakenham-community-hospital.