The planned, controversial, demolition of a century-old historic hospital in Murrurundi is necessary to grant ambulance access to its replacement, according to a health spokesperson.
The Murrurundi Wilson Memorial Hospital building, completed in 1919, was designed by famed architect George MacRae. He also worked on the Queen Victoria Building, the Sydney Town Hall, the Taronga Zoo Entrance among others.
A spokesperson for Health Infrastructure said they had received planning approval to demolish the old building when they won signoff for the new one in 2019.
"The location of the new hospital building on the site requires removal of the existing hospital building to enable access for ambulances and hospital operations staff, as well as provide the new permanent staff accommodation building and parking," they said.
Heritage consultant Ray Hynes rejected that argument, saying easements and parking could easily be moved elsewhere on what he said was a five hectare site.
Mr Hynes is a member of a community group campaigning to cancel the demolition and preserve the historic building for use by the community.
"The two [hospital buildings] can coexist with a bit of modification of access points. Anything's possible with earth-moving these days" he said.
"There has been ample time to reassess the design and the layout of the site plan to allow the relocation of the [historic] building.
"Not demolishing that building is a great saving in terms of the cost of demolition and the cost of removal of all the waste. To build a new one and put in the carpark is going to cost x dollars anyway, it doesn't matter whether it goes there or somewhere else."
The health spokesperson said the project team had conducted years of consultation with the community throughout project planning.
A majority of feedback supported the development of a new hospital over refurbishing the existing building, the spokesperson said, which they described as "aged".
Mr Hynes said members of the community had repeatedly brought up the idea of preservation of the old building through the consultation process and were never presented an option that would have done so. Instead, they were simply asked if they wanted an upgrade of the old building, or a newly built one, he said.
Construction of the new building is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. Once health services have migrated to the new hospital, the old one will be knocked down.
An appeal by the Upper Hunter Shire Council in July 2020 for heritage listing was unsuccessful. The old building is not heritage listed.
The new hospital's name will remain Murrurundi Wilson Memorial Hospital to acknowledge the historical connection with the Wilson family.