Watford’s mayor Dorothy Thornhill has admitted "an actual brand-spanking new plonked-on-the-site hospital is highly unlikely".
She has confirmed the original aspiration for a new 600-bed hospital on the Health Campus development would not be realised, pointing to the £13.4million deficit recorded by the West Herfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust this year.
Mayor Thornhill said: "The trust has made it quite clear to me and to our Member of Parliament that given the state of her things at the hospital that an actual brand-spanking new plonked-on-the-site hospital is highly unlikely to happen.
"Therefore, quite rightly, you have pointed out that I have changed what I said.
"Because I don’t know about you, but if the circumstances change I change.
"If the trust is telling me that this is an aspiration that will not be realised, but what they are hoping to do is to have new facilities."
She continued: "That’s what will happen over time. When the trust has got itself sorted out there will be new buildings."
Mayor Thornhill was pressed on the issue at the 2014 Mayoral Hustings on Monday, where a member of the public asked if the words "health campus" should be taken out the project name of the West Watford regeneration plans.
She maintained that at the heart of the scheme would be provision for a new hospital - now provision for new hospital buildings.
Initially a brand new 600-bed hospital was promised to replace the ailing Watford General as part of the controversial development.
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust’s own chief executive Samantha Jones has described Watford General’s buildings as "not-fit-for purpose" and Labour Leader Ed Miliband branded the hospital "in serious need of modernisation" when he visited last month.
Mayor Thornhill faced criticism that the Health Campus plans only allocate space on which to build future hospital buildings when the trust’s financial situation improves, whereas work to create new car parks, shops and 750 new homes on the site is set to go ahead.
She confirmed that shortly after the general election there will be a decision about which of the Trust’s three sites are to be developed.
She continued: "We had hoped that the first one would be a new maternity block, in fact we were most disappointed when the new chief executive decided she wanted to put that on hold and do her clinical strategy.
"It was always a redevelopment plan. It was always about jobs, it was always about homes and it was always about regenerating derelict land. And it still is."