The State Health Minister David Davis faces the media at Wonthaggi last Saturday after making a $25 million commitment to the local hospital.
By Michael Giles
HOT on the heels of a Coalition promise, last week, to put $21 million into the Wonthaggi Secondary College’s relocation project comes the news at the weekend of a new $25 million commitment to the Wonthaggi Hospital.
The funds will pay for the construction and fit out of an additional floor above the newly completed Community Rehabilitation Centre… but only if the Coalition wins.
It would also entrench the State Government’s commitment to the master plan for Wonthaggi as the sub-regional health centre, a project that has a $240 million price tag.
State Health Minister David Davis was in town last Saturday afternoon to make the announcement, being joined by his Parliamentary colleagues Andrew Ronalds and Ken Smith, together with Bass Liberal Candidate Brian Paynter.
“I am delighted to join with my colleagues today in making a further $25 million commitment to the Wonthaggi Hospital. These funds will enable a further expansion of rehabilitation and community health services here.
“This announcement follows a recent commitment of $310 million to Casey Hospital which also has benefits for this region.
“It also acknowledges the strong growth in this area and continues the development of the hospital to meet the needs of an expanding community.”
Mr Davis said the Wonthaggi Hospital would have to continue tackling more, higher level services “so people don’t have to be travelling outside the area for health care in the future”.
“This is stage one, in effect, with further development to follow.
“If we are re-elected, this will mark a significant step forward, ensuring that Wonthaggi, and the region around it, gets the hospital it needs.”
Chairman of the hospital, Jeff Bennett, welcomed the commitment to expand rehab and allied health services for the region, while also acknowledging the need to continue the expansion of services at Wonthaggi overall.
Asked afterwards why his government hadn’t simply allocated the funds two months ago when it was still in government, Mr Davis said it was accepted practice that a party would make commitments before the election and set about delivering them afterwards.
“We announced a program of works and services back in 2010 and we’ve delivered every single one of those things.
“This relates to our new program.
“If we get back in, there will be funding allocated to this project in the May budget and then we’ll get on with building it.”
There are those in the community, like the members of the Australian Education Union, Wonthaggi Secondary College Sub-Branch, who have expressed cynicism about the $21 million school announcement last week (see letters page) and the $25 million hospital promise so close to an election.
But Minister Davis rejected such criticism.
He also dismissed claims that the hospital hadn’t been able to carry out a proper surgical program because it lacked a short-stay unit to support surgical patients.
He said the latest commitment at Wonthaggi built on $4.3 million of infrastructure development funding delivered to date including the recently announced $1.1 million to build a new short-stay unit for the emergency department as well as new surgical equipment.
“Another six projects totalling $3.2 million including the hospital’s new public dental clinic, food services refurbishment and an acute and surgical ward redevelopment were delivered.
“We are also delivering the $3.1 million build of a modern community health centre in Cowes on Phillip Island.”
The day wasn’t without its controversy with the Health Minister clearly distracted by the presence of protesting local ambulance officers, in uniform, out the front of the hospital.
“Why don’t they go back to the ambulance station?” asked his Parliamentary colleague, Ken Smith.
“There’s no evidence they are waiting at the ED,” said the Minister.
Asked about the West Gippsland Hospital, he said there was likely to be an announcement about that later in the week.
Labor has committed to a comprehensive study of the health care needs of the growing population in West Gippsland, but it yet to officially support either the Wonthaggi hospital or secondary college projects.
We’ll match school, hospital promise, says ALP candidate
AT A ‘Meet the Candidates’ night in Wonthaggi last Friday night, ALP candidate for Bass, Sanjay Nathan said it was highly likely a new Wonthaggi Secondary College would be built under Labor.
He said the $510 million committed to school projects by Daniel Andrews would effectively allow Labor to match the $21 million promised by the Coalition to relocated and upgrade Wonthaggi’s senior campus.
“Out of the $510 million, Wonthaggi will be built and so will Koo Wee Rup,” Mr Nathan said.
And without knowing the exact details of the Wonthaggi hospital expansion announcement to be made the next day, he said: “I would advocate for something like that”.
The reassurances should be music to the ears of both hospital and education administrators locally.