A RESIDENTIAL development could play a part in Kiama Hospital's future as negotiations continue between Kiama Municipal Council and the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD).
The two bodies have lodged a joint application for $8 million of Restart NSW Illawarra Infrastructure funding from the proceeds of the Port Kembla lease, featuring ISLHD outreach health services, a 134-bed aged care centre and an aged care staff training facility.
But Kiama Mayor Brian Petschler said the council was also investigating other options to offset the cost of the development, including independent living units, assisted care units and a residential subdivision.
"[The hospital site] backs Bonaira Reserve at the rear," he said.
"Because of the SEPP [State Environmental Planning Policy] requirements for aged care living, there's a 60-metre buffer that will be put in next to what you'd call forest, where we might be able to do something else.
"So, rather than have an alienated 60 metres along the back of the hospital site, we could put in fire trails if need be, and roads, and do some subdivision there for normal residential use."
Cr Petschler said nothing was set in cement, including the purchase price of the land itself, but the council wanted to act on the proposal soon.
After aged care nurse Roger Dean set fire to a Quakers Hill nursing home in 2011, killing 11 elderly residents, new regulations were introduced requiring sprinkler systems in residential aged care facilities.
While Blue Haven's fire procedures recently met accreditation standards and equipment was regularly checked and tested, Cr Petschler said sprinklers would become an accreditation requirement in the future.
All NSW facilities must have the system by March 1, 2016.
"It's going to run into the $700,000-$1 million to retrofit buildings like that, which essentially, is dead money," Cr Petschler said.
"We'd much prefer to build a new facility if we can for that sort of expenditure."
The hostel also has a limited accredited life due to the size of its rooms and en suites.
ISLHD chairman Denis King said with the joint venture asking for only $8 million of the $40 million project cost, awarding Restart funds to the project would trigger a much larger development for the size of the investment.
"There's value for money and it has a lot of logic to it, as well as providing services which are needed," he said.
Professor King said negotiations relied on the outcome of the funding application.
He said the district intended to provide general practice-type services at the facility, but adjustments would be needed if the full $8 million was not secured.