The details about the plans and promises of the project were revealed by University of Wollongong (UOW) Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings who announced that property group Lendlease was chosen as the preferred respondent for the project following a national open-market Expression of Interest process which started in 2016.
He says the Lendlease proposal ranked “highest overall” after competing bids were evaluated, scored and ranked on a number of criteria, and was determined to best meet UOW’s vision for the Health and Wellbeing Precinct.
Plans for the University’s development include provisions for aged care and retirement living facilities, as well as research and teaching programs to create Australia’s first primary and community health clinic offering “truly integrated” patient-centred healthcare.
“The development of the Health and Wellbeing Precinct is a major initiative for the University that will bring significant benefits to the Illawarra community and beyond,” Professor Wellings says.
“It will create a space where medical professionals sit alongside students, researchers and academics and where aged care centres sit alongside state-of-the-art rehabilitation services, where GPs will work side-by-side with dietitians, dentists and psychologists.
“Lendlease provided the most comprehensive development concept and vision for the Health and Wellbeing Precinct, which best meets UOW’s vision to advance education, research, community engagement and employment opportunity for graduates.”
Deputy Vice Chancellor Health and Communities, Professor Alison Jones, says once complete, the precinct will enhance UOW’s already strong multidisciplinary focus on aged care and provide new research and teaching opportunities in nursing, nutrition, physical activity and rehabilitation, psychological wellbeing and mental health, and technological support for ageing, among other areas.
“The Health and Wellbeing Precinct is one of the key planks of UOW’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy which will harness and build upon the collective talent across the University, our partners and communities themselves, to improve physical, mental and social wellbeing for our communities,” she explains.
“The Precinct will have a strong focus on teaching and research, which will see research translate into practice to improve patient experience and outcomes.
“It will enhance our ability to train the health workforce of the future to deliver patient-centred models of care within an interdisciplinary model.”
Stage one of the precinct plan vision, which accounts for $200-$250million of the overall $500 million project, includes health-related research and teaching facilities integrated with a primary and community health clinic, a 108-bed residential aged care facility, 199 independent retirement living units, a childcare centre, and retail and commercial facilities.
The completion of the precinct, which is anticipated for 2022, is hoped to complement existing health services and help relieve pressure on local health networks in the Illawarra by offering non-surgical care focussed on preventative health and the maintenance of physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Moving forward, the next step will see Lendlease and the University of Wollongong enter a negotiation phase to reach a commercial agreement.
If negotiations are successful, they will be followed by extensive stakeholder engagement, planning approvals, geotechnical and site enabling works throughout 2019, with construction anticipated to commence in 2020.