A newly-established foundation will push for a $60 million medical research institute for Nepean Hospital, following revelations top specialists won’t come to the area because it offers no research facilities.
Greg Allchin of the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District board told the Gazette Nepean was the only teaching hospital in Sydney that didn’t have a research facility attached to it.
“It doesn’t mean we don’t do research there, we do have a lot of research there some of it in the hospital itself and some through the clinical school, but it’s not the ideal way to do it,” he said.
“[We need the facility] if we want to attract the best doctors and medical specialists to our area. These doctors do want the opportunity to do research, if we don’t have the medical research facility, they can go where they do exist.
“There have been examples where we have lost some academics that were interested in coming to our area because we don’t have those facilities.”
A sub-committee of the board, chaired by Penrith solicitor Joe Grassi, has now been established to address the issue through the creation of a new medical research foundation.
The Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Education and Medical Research Foundation, as it is currently called, would be a driver to attract funding for the institute.
“The foundation would be owned by the community within the Local Health District and would be raising money to invest into research in that community. The foundation would be the conduit to receive funds,” Mr Allchin said.
“The institute alone could cost up to $60 million so we are looking for corporations to come on board.”
Mr Grassi is currently working on the legal framework for the foundation, with its official launch expected within months.
Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District services the Penrith, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Lithgow Local Government Areas, and Mr Allchin said a medical research institute at Nepean Hospital could look into problems unique to the western Sydney area.
However, the facility could also benefit people living as far as Dubbo and Bathurst who currently travelled to Nepean for treatment in areas such as mental health, he said.
“The big winners would be the population of the health district area we service,” Mr Allchin said.
“We have a high incidence of obesity and diabetes, alcoholism, smoking, mental illness and the second highest incidence of domestic violence in NSW. Indigenous health is big in our area as well.”
The sub-committee had been working closely with Penrith City Council and Lindsay MP Fiona Scott to identify a location for the institute as well as potential Federal Government funding.
“We need a site for the medical research institute and we’d like it around the campus of Nepean Hospital,” Mr Allchin said.
The institute would involve universities as well as TAFE, he said.
Nepean was currently leading the field in areas such as telehealth, where patients can have face-to-face meetings with specialists via video link, and robotic surgery where a surgeon can operate remotely.
“Once the institute is established we will have a recognised location and have the ability to attract people from other areas,” Mr Grassi said.