MAYOR Mark Jamieson has hailed the turning of the first sod at the site of the $1.8 billion Sunshine Coast University Hospital as the dawn of a new era for the region.
Mayor Jamieson joined Premier Campbell Newman, Kawana MP and Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie and builders Exemplar Health to mark the milestone.
When it opens in 2016, the hospital will provide 450 beds, growing to 738 beds by 2021 and can be expanded to 900 beds beyond 2021 if needed.
Services will include a new comprehensive cancer centre, a range of complex surgical services including neurosurgery, cardiothoracic surgery, maxillofacial surgery and specialised trauma services.
"This project ticks all the right boxes; more jobs, a stronger economy and improved health services," Mayor Jamieson said.
"The hospital will be the centre piece of the Kawana Health Precinct, which will provide the biggest economic boost in the region's history.
Cr Jamieson said the hospital would inject $680 million a year into the local economy with the flow-on effect to benefit local businesses.
"Job creation will continue after the construction stops, with thousands of people needed to work at the hospital," he said.
"Allied health services will also reap the benefits of the new precinct as the Sunshine Coast becomes the best location in Australia for health providers to invest."
Mr Bleijie said the hospital would provide important health care services that are currently not available in the region.
"The local community has fought long and hard to get to this stage and it is exciting that with every day we get one step closer," he said.
"The Sunshine Coast University Hospital was a project used as a political football by the previous Labor Government, which gave us different start dates, end dates and budgets.
"In 2009 when it was announced the start date would be pushed back again by another two years, the community started the Hospital Delay, No Way campaign.
"During this time, more than 2000 residents attended a rally and almost 30,000 signed various petitions.
"This commitment, particularly by the Sunshine Coast University Hospital Action Group has now paid off.
"The Newman Government can assure the community it will now get on with the job without excuses and without any further delays.
"The Sunshine Coast University Hospital means about 10,000 residents will no longer need to travel to Brisbane for treatment and will revolutionise public health care in the region."
The Kawana Health Precinct Project includes four precincts:
1. The Hospital Precinct
2. The Medical Precinct
3. The Transit and Health and Wellbeing Learning Precinct
4. The new Kawana Town Centre