Gold Coast Greyhounds hosted their final race meeting at Parklands at the end of July before being closed by the State Government to build a $1.5 billion hospital. It now appears that one of the only two TAB tracks left in Queensland could be headed for a similar fate.
Rapid population growth in Ipswich means that the existing hospital has a 350 bed capacity but will need to immediately expand to create a further 88 new beds in the not too distant future.
Figures recently released show Ipswich is growing at 4.6 per cent, making it the fastest growing local government area in Queensland, and Ipswich’s 2006 population of 142,312 is expected to more than double to 434,788 by 2031.
Queensland Health faces increased pressure to decide whether to expand the existing 350 bed hospital on Chelmsford Avenue, or move to a new site. The debate over future planning comes as Queensland Health comes under uncreased political pressure over allegations of critically overloaded emergency rooms.
Labor’s Member for Ipswich Rachel Nolan yesterday said planning was underway and the issue had been discussed with Health Minister Stephen Robertson and Deputy Premier Paul Lucas.
But she said no decision to build a new Ipswich hospital had been made, despite conceding a decision was necessary and a scoping study undertaken.
“What we are looking at doing is – and we know there is growth – and we know we need to make a decision about whether we a) build new buildings on the existing site, or b) move to an alternative site,” Ms Nolan said.
“We are doing the planning around that, but we have not yet made that decision.”
Ms Nolan said a “site suitability study” completed in September 2007 showed that a further 88 hospital beds could be “reasonably comfortably” added to the existing buildings at Ipswich Hospital but conceded that “Ipswich Hospital has about 350 beds now, so 88 beds is a reasonably substantial addition.”
In what must be a dramatic twist of fate for Greyhounds Queensland after so recently losing the Gold Coast Greyhound’s Parklands site under similar circumstances, Ms Nolan said the Ipswich Showgrounds “might be an appropriate site” for a new Ipswich Hospital, but added that “it is not a ‘fait accomplis’ that that is where we are going to move.”
Queensland Health issued a statement to say that “at this stage” there were no plans to shift the hospital to the Ipswich Showgrounds but given the huge increase required to meet health demands in the local Ipswich area, it is safe to assume that a move will be required within 5 years.
The Ipswich Showgrounds is located two-kilometres west of the Ipswich Hospital. The land is owned by the State Government and leased by the Ipswich Show Society.
The Ipswich Greyhound Club are currenlty running three meetings a week, while Albion Park host the remaining Queensland TAB meetings.
Any push to close the Ipswich Greyhounds will cause further pressure to be applied to Greyhounds Queensland to identify, develop and find funding to build, a dedicated greyhound racing site as an alternative to Albion Park, which has been beset by it’s own problems this year.