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Blog: The hospital that nearly made a minister crumble

One vision of the new hospital Credit: ITV News

Well he's done it. After five years of wrangling over what and where and how and why, the Health & Social Services Minister, Senator Andrew Green, today finally got the go ahead to work up proper plans to build a new half a billion pounds hospital next to the existing one in St Helier.

It's been one heck of a journey.

His predecessor put forward a rather bonkers twin-site hospital, with half of it up a cliff face on the edge of town.

Senator Green set about undoing that exercise in blue-sky-thinking-gone-wrong and whittled down some 40-odd sites to five, putting those out to public consultation, and - we now know - leaving him so low at one point he considered how easy it would have been to throw in the towel and walk away.

That low point was a seriously angry public meeting, which I chaired, at the town hall, arranged by those who opposed the prospect of People's Park being the site of the new hospital. I have never seen a meeting like it. The Minister massively misjudged the mood and spent his allotted time arguing why the hospital needed rebuilding (that was a given), instead of making the case for the park.

Anyhow, he got through it, the public kept saying they preferred the Waterfront as a site for the hospital, and then the 'winning' location was revealed: build it where it currently is.

Today, by 34 votes to 3, politicians said "do it".

Hindsight begs the question of why he didn't avoid the agro and expense of the past couple of years and just announce a rebuild on the current site from the outset. Politically safe, easy to sell, surely a no brainer?

Without going through the myriad reason that didn't happen, it's apparent that consultants and experts can come up with different answers to problems depending on who's asking the questions, and indeed how they're asked.

Anyhow, as the cliché goes: we are where we are.

Expect a full report on the hospital rebuild by next July. Politicians will then give it the final rubber stamp. Building work will begin in 2019. And it should open in 2023.

Oh, and the price tag? Currently £466m. Though, by my maths, the loan and interest they're planning will up that to a billion pounds. Ouch.

I suspect all those involved in getting this project to this point will be wanting to raise a glass and celebrate, today. But, for them, the work really begins now.