State Health Minister David Davis was left in absolutely no doubt about the Phillip Island community’s call for a hospital or at the very least a 24/7 accident and emergency treatment facility and making exactly that point, right, was none other than local Liberal Party vice president Judy Donohoo when the Minister came to town last Sunday.
STATE Health Minister, David Davis, might be wishing he never went to Phillip Island last Sunday to announce funding for a new $3.3 million community health centre at Cowes.
Hardly had the set-piece of the announcement been concluded, under shady trees at 55 Church Street, than the islanders descended on the Minister like seagulls on a cup of hot chips.
“I’m sorry Mr Minister but what we have to have here is a 24/7 accident and emergency facility,” said community leader, Greg Price.
“We won’t rest until we get it and if your candidate here today doesn’t support that, Phillip Island will not be a Liberal voting area at the next election.”
The Minister, clearly taken aback, responded that ambulance paramedic and MICA resources had been boosted in the area specifically to cater to Phillip Island’s health needs but that didn’t cut it.
“The single lane bridge is a real problem especially during the holidays and on busy weekends when we can have a population of 60, 80 or 100,000 people,” was the response.
“People came here with a lot of high hopes today and they’ve been let down again,” said another.
Local Liberal Party stalwart, Judy Donahoo, and former shire president, John Matthews, were among those taking it up to the Minister.
“Greg Hunt has $2.5 million on the table for a 24 hour A&E service on the island or a hospital. Has there been any discussions with him on that?” asked another resident.
“It’s unclear what that’s for,” Mr Davis claimed, hemmed in by a crush of people at this stage.
It was then that Ken Smith, the Member for Bass, fired up after being accused of going “against” the island’s community on the hospital issue.
“I wasn’t against you. I simply said you couldn’t get funding for a hospital.”
Others joined in and the exchange looked like getting out of hand.
Graeme Cock of the Phillip Island Hospital Action Group also tackled the Minister over the appropriateness of the community health centre funding, saying afterwards that the announcement was very disappointing.
“A town the size of Kerang (population: 2490) got $36 million to redevelop their hospital and yet they say we’re not eligible for one here. It’s a load of crap,” he said.
It was then that a member of the Warley Trust Advisory Committee, Anne Oswin, queried the Minister about where $1.1 million of the announced funding was coming from.
It’s this point that has now blown up into a full-scale funding furore that could leave the project embarrassingly short of money.
“I notice that $1.1 million is expected to come from the Warley Trust. That will be news to the advisory group because no one has spoken to them about this proposal,” Mrs Oswin said.
“Our negotiations have been with LASA (Leading Age Services Australia) which is the responsible authority,” Minister Davis said.
“But the stated purpose of the funding announcement, for podiatry and counselling services etc, is at odds with the Supreme Court decision about what the Warley Trust funds should be spent on,” Mrs Oswin replied.
Legal opinion and solicitors’ letters have since been flying back and forth over the issue.
Chair of the Warley Trust Advisory Committee, David Luscombe, has already written to the Chief Executive of Aged and Community Care Victoria, John Begg, to advise him of the apparent anomaly with the funding announcement.
“It is wil great concern that I write to you on behalf of the Warley Trust Advisory Committee… we consider such an application (of the trust funds) to be outside the purposes of the trust and, if so, an application not permitted by the terms of the trust” as approved by the Supreme Court of Victoria in March 2011.
He said the trust funds were to be applied to “nursing, hospital and related medical and paramedical services”, not ancillary health services such as those already provided by Bass Coast Community Health at another site on the island.
The President of the Board of Directors of Bass Coast Community Health (BCCHS), John Shaw, is understood to be ropeable about the reception accorded to the Minister last Sunday and both BCCHS and Bass Coast Regional Health (BCRH) have subsequently come out praising the announcement.
The Boards of Bass Coast Regional Hospital (BCRH) and Bass Coast Community Health Service (BCCHS) were delighted with the announcement on Sunday by the Minister for Health David Davis that funding has been approval to build a new community health centre to accommodate community health and primary care on Phillip Island at Cowes.
“This is the culmination of much planning and local consultation and is key step in ensuring a permanent location on Phillip Island for a range of community based healthcare services,” Ormond Pearson, Chief Executive Officer of Bass Coast Community Health Service said.
The “local consultation” doesn’t have appeared to have included the Warley Trust officials or those campaigning for a hospital or similar on the island.