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The Far South Coast's grand old lady hospital becomes an election issue

old bega hospital.jpg

The heritage-listed old Bega Hospital has found itself the centre of attention thanks to the NSW election and a creative campaign. Picture courtesy Matthew Nott. 

While the Labor Party upped the ante regarding a new hospital for the Eurobodalla this week, promising $200 million dollars ($25 million Commonwealth and $175 million State funding) if elected, saying the $150 million dollars pledged by the NSW Government would not be enough, another hospital has hit the spotlight and become an election issue. 

The old heritage-listed Bega Hospital, on the outskirts of Bega, which had a fire sweep through the main building in 2004, recently missed out on a NSW Government grant which would have seen the roof rebuilt.

 The passionate Friends of the Old Bega Hospital, and its committee looks after the hospital, which is owned by Crown Lands, and want to see the old hospital become a thriving cultural centre. 

They say they were promised half a million dollars by the NSW Government in 2015, which was conditional on the committee raising nearly $2 million dollars themselves. However after they missed out on the $2.4 million dollar Regional Cultural Fund grant last month they invited the community to start knitting the roof. 

Over the last few weeks Labor's candidate for the NSW seat of Bega Leanne Atkinson, has pledged half a million dollars to the hospital, while Liberal member for Bega Andrew Constance has said he's investigating the status of the original half a million dollars, promised by the Deputy Premier in 2015. Mr Constance has now notified the media saying he'll meet with the committee this morning at the hospital, and has also invited the media to the meeting.

Many in the community have fond memories of the hospital and many still use it, with a number of community groups operating in the outbuildings that weren't damaged in the fire. It was a working hospital from 1889 until 1956. 

There has been some discussion about the space becoming a new location for the Bega Regional Gallery, which is currently next to the library in the centre of Bega, however the idea has been dismissed because of the need for a public gallery to be accessible to the public - the old hospital is not readily accessible by foot. It should be noted the Bega Regional Gallery also missed out on funding from the Regional Cultural Fund for an upgrade. 

Mr Constance has been encouraging Council and the committee to work together on a clear direction saying a joint application regarding the hospital's future use would carry weight. He's suggested the site could be a second precinct for the Bega Regional Gallery.