Despite a petition and attempted heritage listing, two old hospital buildings in western Queensland are slated for demolition, beginning in mid-April.
The state government has confirmed that Q-Build has been awarded the contract to demolish the former hospitals at both Aramac and Alpha.
Central West Hospital and Health Service chief executive Christopher Sullivan said while it had been their intention to turn the old facilities over to the Aramac and Alpha communities for their use once the new facilities were operational, both were found to have multiple and extensive structural defects and significant levels of asbestos and other hazardous materials.
"Significant defects render the old buildings at both Aramac and Alpha, including any material within, unsuitable and unsafe for repurposing," he said.
The news was received with sadness by former Aramac resident Alison Duke-Gibb, who told the social media group 'Save the old Aramac Hospital and Nurses Quarters (heritage list it)' in mid-March that she had resigned herself to the fact that nothing was going to save the hospital.
She tried to have the building heritage listed but said because the demolition had already been approved, even a successful listing would not have saved it.
"I have had contact with lots of politicians but no success.
"Unfortunately as I live 1200km away I was not aware of the community consultations when they occurred so my run was a little late.
"It is an absolute shame that it has come to this - so many have tried."
One of those was Lloyd Powell, who began a petition in 2020, which attracted 855 signatures.
He said he had begun it to support a heritage listing, saying the original structure had been put up in 1879.
"The old hospital just has to be saved for all future generations so that there is a real connection to the past.
"If the buildings get knocked down it will be a loss of historical significance for not only the town but the region as a whole."
The former hospitals in Muttaburra and Isisford have been turned into museums for those communities.
Mr Sullivan said multiple options for alternative uses of the old Alpha and Aramac hospitals were considered in recognition of the deep connection the communities had to them.
"As a public entity, we are legally bound to ensure the facilities are safe and fit for purpose before any potential transfer of ownership or change of use," he said.
"To this end, we commissioned extensive independent survey and engineering reports on the structural integrity and safety of both the old health facilities."
He said the results of various professional and independent surveys and reports were clear, that there were significant defects that made the old buildings at both places unsafe for repurposing.
He listed an extensive range of faults, including deteriorating roof structures that were not weatherproof, outdated fire infrastructure that had failed and couldn't be repaired or replaced due to their age, outdated electrical switchboards and systems that would need complete rewiring, failed stormwater and sewage systems, galvanised pipes that need replacing, and non-operational air-conditioning systems.
Above all was the significant amount of asbestos and hazardous material in both facilities - 4838 cubic metres in the Aramac building, and 4351 cubic metres at Alpha.
"The financial costs to the health service and ongoing costs to the local community to retain and preserve the old hospital buildings are just too great and unsustainable," Mr Sullivan said.
He added that the results of the multiple engineering and survey reports were presented to community consultation sessions at both Aramac and Alpha, where a variety of options, including local government acquisition, repurposing, and moving were discussed.
"Stakeholders at both Aramac and Alpha supported the scheduling of the safe demolition of the old buildings and removal of associated hazardous materials," he said.
The work is expected to begin in mid-April and be complete by the end of June, weather permitting.
The other former central west hospital that is now vacant following the construction of a new facility is the Blackall Hospital, which has also been reported as containing asbestos.
In 2019 the federal government put $750,000 towards a feasibility study into redevelopment options that some hoped would see it become an Australian-first remote clinical training and education hub.
According to a Queensland Health spokesman, the study, conducted by CQUniversity, was received in October last year.
"However, due to the prioritisation of the health services ongoing and extensive pandemic response, other matters, such as consideration of the report, have had to take lower priority," the spokesman said. "The report will be considered as and when current circumstances permit."
Blackall's new $20.1m hospital was opened in November 2020.
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