Minister Brad Hazzard has asked the health department's infrastructure arm to "accelerate" plans for a “major, major redevelopment” of John Hunter Hospital and the associated health and innovation precinct.
The minister spoke at a Hunter Business Chamber lunch in Merewether on Friday and said the government was planning to spend $8 billion building or upgrading hospitals around the state in the next four years.
He said work on a clinical services plan and seperate masterplan for John Hunter had begun and he "couldn't guarantee" whether it would be finalised before the election on March 23.
He said the project at John Hunter would be "far, far greater" than the $470 million Maitland Hospital being built at Metford.
"It will be very, very substantial," he said.
"Clearly, it is the major trauma [and] tertiary hospital once you come north of Sydney until you hit the Queensland border.
"We're working on a very major redevelopment and I think the other aspect I'd say, is what came out of the September roundtable was the opportunity to make it not only health, but a health, education [and] innovation area.
"I think that is an amazing opportunity to see what we can do up here in the Hunter."
Mr Hazzard admitted John Hunter's location would influence plans and determine the type of development.
"The issue of whether all of the development of John Hunter should be on the one campus is precisely what the group of experts are looking at at the moment," he said.
"There are various mayors who would like to see major extensions into their council areas. But at the end of the day, I have to accept the advice of the experts on this.
"The site itself is on a ridge and it's a very constrained site, so that's part of the challenge - part of the excitement actually - but the experts are working on that."
Mr Hazzard talked of the region's two major hospitals - John Hunter and the new Maitland - as a connected health network.
He said they would be significant economic drivers for the Hunter region in coming years and he expected "more than double" the amount of construction jobs for the John Hunter project than Maitland.
"As a health minister, I'm pushing very hard for the government and treasury to come forward with a big bucket of money," he said.
"Health Infrastructure have been asked to accelerate what they would normally do and they're already working on provisional master planning."
Mr Hazzard acknowledged there were transport and traffic issues around John Hunter Hospital but directed a question from the luncheon audience about how they would be addressed to the state's transport and roads departments.
"When we acutally do do the revelopment, it can actually be addressed," he said during his speech.
"There's also the bypass that will go past there as well, which I think will be providing all sorts of opportnuties."