By Emily Contador-Kelsall
Community concerns are rising towards plans to undertake major redevelopments and refurbishments of St Vincent’s Private Hospital (SVPH) in Darlinghurst.
The cost of the redevelopment of SVPH is currently set at $115 million according to the hospital. The renovations include the construction of a new building and refurbishment of the existing high-rise wing on Victoria Street.
Jane Anderson is the convenor of the Eastern Sydney NeighbourhoodAssociation (ESNA), which St Vincent’s Hospital briefed on the development proposal at their last meeting. She said the group held several concerns, including the past behaviour of St Vincent’s and “their disregard for residents in the area”.
Ms Anderson raised the design of the Kinghorn Cancer Centre as an example of St Vincent’s “disregard for residents”, a building Ms Anderson said looked like a “concrete bunker”.
Contention also arose towards the Kinghorn Cancer Centre when ICAC revealed that John Kinghorn, who donated $25 million to the centre, had been involved in corrupt dealings.
“Due to the past performance, there’s a lack of trust in the community,” Ms Anderson said.
“There’s the past behaviour where [St Vincent’s Private Hospital] ignored local input and they’ve done things like demolish historical terraces.”
However, St Vincent’s Hospital’s attendance and presentation at the last ESNA meeting was a step in the right direction, a move Ms Anderson said was “positive”.
David Faktor, spokesperson for St Vincent’s Hospital, said the community have certainly expressed a lack of trust with St Vincent’s Hospital.
“At the end of the day, St Vincent’s did have community forums in which we discussed and presented to [the community] the plans, and there were some amendments made. The building ended up being a little bit shorter than what we had originally gone to council with,” he said while talking about the Kinghorn Cancer Centre.
“For us, we’ve got a mission and that mission is to respond to community needs”.
Despite the community’s shaky confidence in St Vincent’s, they strongly support their work as a hospital.
Late last week the period for comment on the proposal opened. The public now has one month to officially respond to the development application before the state government decides whether to approve the development.
According to Mr Faktor, SVPH currently struggles to find capacity for the volume of patients that access their care and the increase in patient treatment rooms, operating theatres and other facilities the new building would bring are “really important”.
But the hospital currently lacks a master plan, indicating to the community that there is no long-term view for the area.
“There’s no master plan, so it’s just like doing a little bit, then a little bit more, so there isn’t a master plan that takes a longer term view,” Ms Anderson said.
“There have been suggestions that what is currently open space at St Vincent’s public hospital… is at risk of being developed some time in the future- we’d definitely be against that.”
Mr Faktor said the hospital did not have a master plan at the moment because they did not have any formal funding to implement one. However funds are in place for the proposed redevelopment.
“A while ago, we were working up a master plan but the funds were simply not there. So we could share all these wonderful pipeline dreams with the community but it would be taking them down a garden path in the sense that if they’re not funded there’s just no real point,” he said.
With the potential addition of a 13-level hospital building among existing buildings and a small increase in car parling spaces, the growth of traffic and parking needs has been flagged by ESNA as another potential impact of the redevelopment.
In a letter from Gordon Kirby, director of JPA, to the secretary of the Department of the Planning and Environment, he discusses traffic and connectivity impacts due to the proposed development. “There are no pedestrian access and connectivity risks as a result of the proposed development,” his statement reads.
A consulting transport and accessibility assessment prepared for the SVPH redevelopment by TEF consults seconds this, concluding “no negative [parking] impacts are expected”.
“The additional car parking demand from the hospital component of the proposal is likely to be very minor (1.7 percent) when compared with the existing SVHDC car parking accumulation.”
Mr Faktor said he could not imagine the development would have big impacts on traffic given the scale but was sure there would be disruptions during construction.
“In fairness, we are building in an area, Victoria Street, that is prone to traffic, and as a local community resident group they wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t express some concern about a new building,” he said.