Invest in a health quarter
THE Health Minister’s obstinate support for an expensive and impractical new hospital was questioned at a Scrutiny hearing this week.
The Minister confirmed that his team did not wish to review any of the alternative sites but then went on to set out a range of changes needed to his chosen plan to address the significant criticisms made by the Planning Inspector.
The building will now need to extend over a larger footprint, some departments will have to be in Parade Gardens and the work will need to be phased, leading to years of disruption and temporary arrangements. The finished product will never be more than a dense, squashed building sitting hard up against blocks of flats and a multi storey car park.
It is not too late to return to a far more suitable site. Overdale has been used by Health for many years and now offers an impressive site for a new hospital. Outline plans were previously drawn up and some ‘tweaking’ could address outstanding issues and deliver a hospital more quickly and cheaply than the current option.
Any site large enough to accommodate a new hospital will pose planning challenges. In Overdale’s case, the site is at the top of a hill. Careful attention will be needed to minimise the visual impact but this could be achieved with an intelligent plan that respects the contours of the land and sympathetic landscaping to soften the outline. The advantage of the location is obvious – fresh air, sea views, the opportunity to set an iconic building in lovely gardens.
Blue light emergency access to Overdale was cited as difficult up Westmount Road but alternative routes could be considered from the Inner Road. Even better would be to build the hospital Accident and Emergency department onto the George V Homes site to take the emergency vehicles directly from the main road. Other hospital services could then be built further up the hill on the main part of the Overdale site.
Designating a Westmount Health Quarter could also help to solve the problem of accommodation for health staff offering a new use for the redundant St Helier House as well as redevelopment opportunities for some of the tired housing stock in this area.
Investing in a new hospital is the largest single decision that Jersey will make for 50 years. Let’s choose a site and a plan we can be proud of.