Hospital deal done

UNITINGCARE is now locked into a contract with the Federal Government that drives the development timeline of a new-look 96-bed inpatient St Stephens Hospital in Hervey Bay.

"We are on schedule to go to tender in the first week of October," UnitingCare Health executive director Richard Royle said.

"We are anticipating nominating the preferred builder prior to Christmas with construction to begin in January next year."

The new $87.4 million hospital development is backed to the tune of $40 million by UnitingCare and is scheduled to open in August 2014.

A Federal Government funding stream worth $47.1 million will flow into the project as a series of progress payments.

The same grant will also fund three new operating theatres, six dialysis chairs, two isolation bays, four oncology chairs and an e-health initiative.

If the project reaches its maximum capacity across several phases of development, there will eventually be 180 beds and five-operating theatres come on line at the hospital.

UnitingCare has based its expansion strategy in part on modelling that shows the age profile of the Wide Bay region will underpin long- term operations.

"We understand private health insurance uptake is lower in Wide Bay than the rest of Queensland, but the project is still sustainable," Mr Royle said.

"There is no doubt people are taking out cheaper products in health insurance.

"But the fact is the population will increase over the next 20 years or more.

"Once individuals gets into their late-60s and 70s they require a significant increase in levels of health care and hospitalisation.

"Hervey Bay and Wide Bay have an aged profile that will need what we are dedicated to providing."