New vision for community hospital

A conceptual illustration of the new Lady Bjelke-Petersen Community Hospital. Pictures: Contributed

As the Kingaroy Hospital redevelopment project wraps up, a new aged care and hospital precinct could also become a reality for Kingaroy at the current Lady Bjelke-Petersen Community Hospital site.

South Bank Medical Group, operator of the Lady Bjelke-Petersen Community Hospital, are currently exploring the major redevelopment of the site.

SBMG Executive Director and CEO Professor Mark Radford said plans for the health precinct included a much-needed upgrade to the community hospital as well as a 100-room aged care accommodation facility.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the region and while the redevelopment plans are yet to be finalised, we are hopeful about the way forward and what this will mean for the local community,” Professor Radford said.

“Our proposal would see the hospital upgraded with the latest facilities to ensure the current range of services can continue to be provided. We would also build an associated aged care facility, initially with 100 rooms, to meet the growing needs of an ageing population.”

The future of the hospital has been in limbo with significant remedial works required and SBMG reliant on community grants, and state and federal funding to subsidise operational costs.

During October 2021, the South Burnett Regional Council unanimously voted to work with SBMG to redevelop the hospital site to assure its long-term viability and provide additional health services to the South Burnett community.

Professor Radford said SBMG had been working closely with the Chair of the Hospital Foundation, former South Burnett Mayor Wayne Kratzmann, the South Burnett Regional Council and economics, property planning and strategy consultants, AEC Group.

“Partnering with South Burnett Regional Council, we have been exploring various opportunities to advance health and social outcomes for the region and we are looking forward to progressing these development plans,” he said.

South Burnett Regional Council Chief Executive Officer, Mark Pitt, acknowledged the strong partnership and the Council’s commitment to maintain medical services for the community.

“Our Council has worked to ensure the community did not lose any medical services and one of our priorities is to keep existing health services here in Kingaroy. South Bank Medical Group has been a key partner and we look forward to a continued strong and positive working relationship,” Mr Pitt said.

South Burnett Community Hospital Foundation Chair, and long-time advocate for the community hospital, Wayne Kratzmann was excited about the project.

“This is a unique opportunity to advance regional health outcomes across the South Burnett region and provide the ageing community the ability to stay in the region and maintain their social and community ties within their local community,” Mr Kratzmann said.

“From the outset I have always said that it was imperative that our region did not lose this facility and am thrilled that this development will see our hopes and dreams come to fruition.”

Professor Radford said SBMG and AEC will finalise due diligence before attracting investment and pursuing development approvals early next year.

“We will keep the local community updated on these plans, and continue to work closely with Kingaroy General Hospital, other health service providers and the general practitioner community in the region to ensure Kingaroy, the South Burnett and surrounding areas have access to the best possible medical care,” said Professor Radford.

The Lady Bjelke-Petersen Community Hospital services the local community and outlying areas of the Darling Downs.

The hospital was originally opened as St. Aubyns Hospital in the 1920’s, with the hospital upgraded in 1971.

In 2002 the former Kingaroy Shire Council purchased the Hospital land and buildings following the closure of St. Aubyns. The Hospital was later leased and reopened as the South Burnett Private Hospital by a private operator.

South Bank Medical Group, a charity focused on advancing health and social welfare, has been successfully operating the hospital for the South Burnett region since 2016. The hospital has one operating theatre and offers the following clinical services: Endoscopy, General Surgery, Gynaecology, Laparoscopic Surgery, Ophthalmology, Urology, Maxillofacial Surgery, Dental and Orthopaedic Surgery.