32-bed mental health unit proposed in President Private Hospital redevelopment


A new factor has been introduced into the debate over whether historic Hotham House should be demolished to facilitate a $40 million redevelopment of President Private Hospital.

The Kirrawee hospital's director Rowann O'Mullane has revealed owner Macquarie Health Group plans to include a 32-bed mental health unit in the project.

Ms O'Mullane said it would be the first private in-patient mental health facility in Sutherland Shire and was badly needed.

"As everyone knows, we are in the middle of a mental health crisis," she said.

"Sutherland Hospital only has beds for acute cases."

Ms O'Mullane said Sutherland Shire Council's request to the state government to heritage list Hotham House jeopardised the mental health initiative as well as the surgical and rehabilitation components of the proposed project.

"The proposed redevelopment would increase the hospital's capacity from 45 to 156 beds," she said.

Ms O'Mullane said, if the dilapidated, non-compliant house" was heritage listed, it could not be modernised to meet today's required building standards, including access requirements.

The council, at its meeting in December, voted 8-6 in favour of proceeding with the heritage listing application.

It was decided "a public hearing was not warranted because the public views have been clearly articulated within the submissions received and council has the benefit of heritage reports prepared for council and by the land owner".

In favour of the motion were Councillors Forshaw, Provan, Boyd, Plibersek, Croucher, Steinwall, McLean and Scaysbrook.

Against were mayor Pesce, deputy mayor Simpson and Councillors Simone, Johns, Nicholls and Riad.

A report by council staff said the proposed heritage listing was publicly exhibited for a month, resulting in 15 submissions, of which four were in support and 11, including a 200 names online petition, were opposed.

Conflicting advice was presented by advisers to the health group and council on whether the building met the threshold for heritage listing.

"Retention of the house is problematic for the redevelopment of the site of President Private Hospital, but does not preclude redevelopment," the report said.

Following the decision, Ms O'Mullane wrote to the Leader appealing for public support to oppose the heritage listing.

The letter reads:

As a resident of the Sutherland Shire, I am outraged by Sutherland Shire Council's decision on Monday 9 December to seek to block the re-development of President Private Hospital and heritage listing a dilapidated, non-compliant house.

This decision jeopardises the $40m by Macquarie Health to modernise and expand the hospital's services.

While the Sutherland Shire has a number of health services, there is a shortage of rehabilitation facilities and there are no private mental health facilities.

The proposed re-development of PPH would increase the hospital's capacity from 45 to 156 beds, providing the Shire's first private mental health facility.

Unfortunately, 7 out of 13 Councillors believed that heritage listing an old non-compliant house is more important.

This is despite Council having received only four written submissions supporting the heritage listing while 368 people have written against the heritage listing.

It must be noted that Sutherland Shire Council refused to engage with the hospital on this matter yet advised Councillors that the hospital could go ahead with its development even if Hotham House was heritage listed. This is factually incorrect.

The owners of the hospital are willling to make a substantial investment into the facility to boost healthcare in the Shire. President Private hospital provides excellent care undergirded by a philosophy of "where caring still counts". Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Council.

If you share my disbelief, please write to your local member and Council to urge them to reconsider.

Yours sincerely,

Rowann O'Mullane

Hospital Director