BATHURST Health Service will embark on a building program over the next five years to boost the capacity over an overwhelmed local hospital.
The new facility, likely to be built within the expanding health precinct stretching from the hospital down to the new ambulance station, would include a new ward of up to 30 beds.
Administrators are also looking to increase the use of out-of-hospital care.
The need for more space has been highlighted in the first stage of a clinical services plan being developed for the Bathurst Health Service.
The plan has also found a need for increased emergency department treatment spaces, an increase in outpatient clinical spaces and a small increase in rehabilitation beds.
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Health administrators also want to see an expansion of hospital-at-home and ambulatory care services, but say even those measures will not be enough to prevent the need for new hospital buildings.
Western NSW Local Health District CEO Scott McLachlan said Bathurst's growing population was putting increased pressure on the hospital.
"This winter just gone was an exceptional winter with a 10 per cent increase in admissions at Bathurst, and there has been a 39 per cent increase over the past five years," he said.
"It's becoming clear that over the next five to seven years we will need a new ward, and that would be an additional 25-30 beds.
"We are getting a master plan done that will take a good 12 months to complete and then it will need to be considered for additional capital funding so in reality it will be five years before we see something."
WNSWLHD health intelligence unit director Maryanne Hawthorn confirmed the need for a hospital expansion, saying the CSP was looking at "the needs of the Bathurst population and outlying towns".
"Part of that is expanding outpatient services, ambulatory care and hospital-in-home services. There are good alternatives to being in hospital that we are working on and Bathurst's ambulatory care service is already rated one of the best in the state," Ms Hawthorn said.
"We then look at the activity in Bathurst over the past five years by diagnoses and look at population projections, including factors such as an increase in the prison population with the jail expanding, and that gives us a projection of the bed numbers we need.
"On that basis we are looking at an extra acute ward for Bathurst, increased ED treatment spaces, an increase in outpatient clinical spaces and small increase in rehabilitation beds, to be delivered alongside more out-of-hospital care."
New hospital not what it should have been
THE "new" Bathurst hospital was supposed to serve Bathurst's health needs for generations to come.
But less than 12 years after its calamitous opening in 2008, the region's senior health officials concede it is already nearing capacity.
Western NSW Local Health District board chairman Scott Griffiths said the planning for the hospital redevelopment did not adequately address the likely growth of the Bathurst region, quickly leaving us with a facility unable to meet the population's needs.
"There's an acknowledgment by all of us that when the hospital was built that the planning didn't look into the future as it should have," Mr Griffiths said.
"As a consequence the bed numbers are a little light on and the design is different to what we might do today.
"But for all that, it is a good modern hospital that is staffed as well as any in the state according to the formula."
There's an acknowledgment by all of us that when the hospital was built that the planning didn't look into the future as it should have.Western NSW Local Health District board chairman Scott Griffiths
Mr Griffiths said the development of a clinical services plan was a major step towards fixing past errors.
"The master plan that looks at population projections, community needs and a facilities plan as we as the needs for today and over a five-year period and beyond," he said.
"The master plan will take about 12 months and will have a gaze into the future.
"It's not just bricks and mortar, it's also a services plan that looks at the services we have and what needs to be built upon."
The new hospital was beset by problems following its opening in 2008, including serious communications failures; an operating theatre that was too small to be used; and an overflow of raw sewage in the maternity ward.