THE first shovel has hit the ground to mark the beginning of the multi-million dollar Murrurundi Hospital Redevelopment.
Members of state and local government and the Murrurundi community gathered on Monday for a traditional 'sod turning' ceremony as construction on the new building is set to begin.
Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen and Upper Hunter Shire Mayor Wayne Bedggood had the honour of turning the first sod, while renowned building company Hutchies continue to set up the site and start digging holes in the ground.
Key features of the redevelopment include the construction of a new hospital to provide health services under one-roof including an inpatient service, 24 hour per day emergency service, primary and ambulatory care facilities and ambulance bay and staff accommodation.
The project will be staged, to ensure that all health services will continue in the existing Wilson Memorial Hospital with minimal disruption.
The existing hospital will carry on running until the new hospital, which is being built next to it, is finished.
Once the new hospital is complete, which is expected to be in late 2020, it will be commissioned and the staff will be trained in the new equipment, then services will be transferred to the new hospital and it will become operational.
The next phase will be the demolition of the old hospital and construction of the new nurses quarters.
This final phase is due to commence in 2021 with the overall redevelopment project forecast to be complete in late 2021.
Health Infrastructure NSW senior project director Mark Brockbank had nothing but praise for successful construction contractors Hutchinson Builders.
"Hutchies are a really good regional and rural builder, they do a lot of work for us in the regions and very very successfully deliver," he said.
"Their strength is in local participation, particularly with aboriginal participation - they engage with the community and work with the community.
"The construction will be quite rapid and I think you'll certainly start seeing a building coming up by June."
Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen said that once construction is complete, the Murrurundi community will be invited for a walkthrough before all health services are moved over from the existing hospital.
"The design of the new hospital includes a number of water saving measures, such as capture and use of rainwater and greywater and the use of ultra-low flow water fixtures," he said.
"All water required for the construction of the new hospital will be sourced separately to the Murrurundi town water supply."
Mr Johnsen said certain sections of the building will be preserved to ensure its history is honoured.
"I think it's important to allow people to understand what the building used to be like, without limiting the ability to build a new hospital which is what Murrurundi needs," he said.
Mr Brockbank added that there has been a lot of community consultation during the project to decide on just how that historical value will be preserved.
This process is set to continue, following a vote from Upper Hunter Shire Council in December to apply to Heritage New South Wales for the 1919 section of the hospital to be included on the NSW State Register.
"There is an additional process we must go through now with that, we will talk to the community again however we have a year to do that because we will only be demolishing next year," Mr Brockbank said.
The redeveloped Murrurundi Wilson Memorial Hospital will retain its name, and will continue to operate as a hospital.