A group of five Hunter surgeons and the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children will move into a new $5 million medical centre at Broadmeadow.
Newcastle City Council has approved plans from Hunter ENT, a team of ear, nose and throat specialists now based at Newcastle Private Hospital, for the four-storey, Aboriginal-themed building at the Nineways.
Renders of the building show it will have a bold Aboriginal exterior design by Newcastle indigenous artist Saretta Fielding.
Hunter ENT’s Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, Australia’s first indigenous surgeon, hoped the building would become a landmark like Newcastle Post Office and Customs House.
“There’s not many Aboriginal-identified buildings in Australia,” he said.
“To say that this is an Awabakal nation building we’re actually doing work on – as an investor it’s quite exciting for me personally.”
RIDBC chief executive Chris Rehn said the charity’s 35 Hunter staff would move from its offices in Tingira Heights and Hunter Street into rented space at the centre.
The building would be a “state-of-the-art, one-stop shop” for Hunter ENT’s patients and the 120 clients who visited the RIDBC regularly.
“On a world stage this is a pretty unique venture,” Mr Rehn said.
The centre will house Hunter ENT’s consulting rooms, audiologists, physiotherapists and other health professionals alongside the institute’s activities, which include diagnostics, rehabilitation and school support.
Mr Rehan said about 1200 people in the Hunter and north coast had cochlear implants, “one of the highest proportions of implanted people across Australia”.
Dr Kong said about 1000 of those implants had been performed in Newcastle.
“This centre is not just about surgery; this is about a patient journey to get the hearing support they need, whether it be speech therapy, whether it be an implant, a hearing aid,” he said.
“Particularly with the segment of society we look after tend to be lower socioeconomic, syndromic kids, a lot of other things going on, you need to make a bigger effort to make sure this community is really welcome.”