Strained hospital Scrutiny hearing ends with apology

A SCRUTINY hearing about proposals to build the new hospital at Overdale ended with a spat between two Senators this week – and an apology from the senior minister in charge of the project.

Lyndon Farnham at Overdale Hospital..Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (29354943)
Lyndon Farnham at Overdale Hospital..Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (29354943)

As the meeting of the Future Hospital Review Panel came to a close, panel chairwoman Senator Kristina Moore accused Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham, who is the political lead for the new hospital project, of making ‘personal’ and ‘inappropriate’ comments criticising her and her panel for asking questions about the scheme.

Her concerns related to an exchange earlier in the hearing when Senator Farnham said ‘it doesn’t feel like it’ after Senator Moore said everyone was working towards the same goal of getting a new hospital.

Senator Kristina Moore Picture: ROB CURRIE. (29395962)

Senator Farnham said he would withdraw that comment and apologised. He added: ‘It wasn’t meant to be a personal comment and I am sorry if it was inappropriate.

‘There is frustration at times at the process, because I think all of us, despite our difference of opinion at times, want to get this done. I apologise and withdraw that comment. It wasn’t meant to be personal.’

He also said he felt that his team had worked hard to provide Scrutiny with as much information as possible and engage with them as the project progressed.

Senator Moore, meanwhile, had sought to defend her panel’s right to ask questions, and accused the minister of ‘simply shooting the messenger’, which she added was ‘not really good sport’.

It was not the only time the tone of the meeting – attended by those giving evidence digitally as well as in person – suggested tensions between the two States Members.

At one point Senator Moore asked why Fort Regent swimming pool and the former planning offices at South Hill had not been considered further as a potential site for the hospital, to which Senator Farnham – who was at the hearing in person – replied: ‘Are you seriously suggesting part of the hospital be constructed on the swimming pool and the other part at South Hill?’

His team then told the panel that the two pieces of land had already been earmarked for other projects and would not have provided enough scope to have all facilities on one site.

Senator Farnham, who was joined at the hearing by chief executive Charlie Parker and others from the Our Hospital team, then said he was focusing on ‘looking forward’ not back, and working to get the agreement of the States Assembly that Overdale should be the site of the new hospital.

The panel is currently reviewing the decision-making process used to determine the final site recommendation, with a view to publishing a report ahead of the States debate about the proposal next month.

Its terms of reference include a focus on fairness, transparency, appropriateness, overall cost, affordability and value for money, as well as the lines of ministerial accountability in the decision-making process and its effectiveness.

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