The Liberal Party’s plan to give the Old Royal Adelaide Hospital site over to private healthcare companies would involve the demolition of multiple buildings on the site, with the taxpayer likely to foot the bill, says one of the private operators making a play for the site.
But the Liberals argue that any future use of the site is going to require public investment and the health plan would be far cheaper than the Labor Party’s $85 million plans for a high school on the site.
Opposition health spokesperson Rob Lucas claimed on the weekend leasing the site’s buildings to private providers could eventually generate revenue for the government.
Mark Doran, National CEO major private healthcare provider the Calvary Group, has already announced its interest in building a new 300-bed hospital on the site, costed at between $100 and $150 million.
But to do that buildings on the site would need to be demolished, probably at the taxpayers expense, he told InDaily.
“That’s where you’d need to negotiate because quite frankly you’d just go down the road and do it somewhere else wouldn’t you? And as I say we’re not a commercial organisation we’re a charity trying to make the best of a community asset. There’s a big difference.
“Obviously they’ve got an issue with demolishing the site. I saw one figure, I don’t know if it’s correct, of $200 million. If they could avoid a chunk of that (by allowing some of the buildings to be reused) that’s a saving to taxpayers.
“I imagine the accommodation block in the back there would probably come down. And there are a whole lot of other buildings there we would most likely have no interest in.
“You’ve got to remember what we’re about. We’re not about making money. What we’re about is having enough to invest and being a purpose-driven charity, that’s what we are.”
Doran’s development would be a mix of new buildings and the reuse of current buildings, he said.
The Liberals hope Calvary will be the site’s anchor tenant, but Doran said he had no interest in most of the site.
Calvary hasn’t done any formal work on the proposal other than a quick walk around the site. Doran said the plan “just seems to make sense”.
Rob Lucas said his party accepted government investment would be needed but argued that the price would be lower than under Labor’s plan.
“If the Government goes ahead they’re going to have to demolish all the buildings because they’re going to need playing fields. The government hasn’t costed for that in their particular proposal.
“Whereas at least on our proposal if there are to be buildings to be demolished potentially if you’ve got medical suites and medical offices and those sorts of potentially commercial arrangements you might be able to minimise the cost to taxpayers from any demolition, or you may well hopefully generate revenue for the state from the state’s investment in the site.”
Lucas also said some proposals he’d heard for health facilities on the site – he wouldn’t say how many approaches he’d had – called for public co-investment. He said the site could also feature other uses including medical offices, aged care facilities, university spaces and cultural venues.
Labor’s plan centres around the school, but the party also commissioned a masterplan for the site building on work done in the site design competition. Education Minister Jennifer Rankine said the public preferred a school to a hospital on the site.
“Both parties are committed to building a school in the city. Labor’s second city high school is far superior. It is in the heart of the science and cultural precinct. It doesn’t create a massive 2500 student school and it is less expensive. We are confident most people will think a public school is a better use of the site than a private hospital.”
The winning entry in the site design competition featured adaptive reuse of most of the site’s buildings, which the jury found to be the most economic use of the site, and space for an art gallery, hotel, community centre, office block and museum.
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