THE Wonthaggi hospital will get $1.9 million to undertake critical upgrade works according to an announcement made by the Premier Daniel Andrews in Wonthaggi this morning, Thursday, March 15.

It comes on top of $3 million for Bass Coast Health in the first allocation from the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund (RHIF) and an increase of $5.4 million this financial year in overall funding for the health service.

The latest funding has been warmly welcomed by Bass Coast Health.

Local MP Brian Paynter has also welcomed the funding while also reinforcing his commitment to having the hospital upgraded to sub-regional status.

And despite a jibe directed at the Federal Member for Flinders, Greg Hunt, the Turnbull Government Cabinet Minister has also welcomed the Premier’s announcement (see quotes below).

However, while the local community was expecting the State Government to finally commit even more significant funds to the complete redevelopment of the hospital, in line with its sub-regional status, it may be that Mr Andrews was simply re-announcing funding his colleague Harrier Shing had released three days earlier, building on works last year which forced the temporary closure of the hospital’s maternity service.

Ms Shing said on Monday, March 12 that health services in Gippsland would receive $3,923,680 between them through the first round of the Labor Government’s new RHIF fund a feature of which was $1.65 million for the Foster hospital and Bass Coast Health $1 million for the following:

* Replacement medical air and installation of medical air backup with auto change over switch $205,600,

* Replacement five air handling units in patient care areas $512,000,

* Replacement fire panel and installation colour graphics system $287,000.

Today, the Premier joined hospital staff to announce that Bass Coast Health would receive a $1.9 million funding boost to fit Wonthaggi hospital “with the latest air handling systems, alongside other crucial safety upgrades to boost patient outcomes and improve working conditions for staff”.

The “announcement” almost certainly includes the allocations detailed by Ms Shing three days earlier, and then some.

Both Ms Shing earlier, and the Premier today, said the funding was part of the Labor Government’s $200 million Regional Health Infrastructure Fund (RHIF) – the largest of its kind in Victorian history – “rebuilding regional and rural hospitals to ensure Victorians can access the high-quality care and facilities they need, no matter where they live”.

“We’re taking action to fit Wonthaggi Hospital with the latest, cutting edge infrastructure that will allow hardworking hospital staff to treat more patients sooner, and closer to their homes,” Mr Andrews said.

Ms Shing was also strongly behind the allocation:

“Our doctors, nurses and health workers across the Bass Coast region work tirelessly every day to provide their patients with the best possible care.”

“Unlike Greg Hunt,” she said, “who refuses to support local health workers as the Coalition cuts hospital funding, we’re determined to provide safer, more reliable and modern facilities as the population grows.”

The Premier’s statement continues:

“The funding boost for Bass Coast Health will improve the quality and safety of facilities for patients, visitors and staff alike. Upgrades include the replacement of an emergency lift, five air handling units in patient care areas, new medical air compressors and the installation of improved emergency back-up and warning systems.

“The latest hospital infrastructure will mean Bass Coast Health can perform more surgeries and reduce cancellations – and improve working conditions for hard-working hospital staff.

“The latest funding comes on top of $3 million provided to Bass Coast Health in the first round of RHIF for infrastructure and medical equipment upgrades. The Victorian Budget 2017/18 delivered $1.67 billion to support hospitals meet demand and provide the high quality care Victorian patients deserve, including $428.5 million in new hospital upgrades.

“In 2017/18, Bass Coast Health will receive $43.876 million in funding from the Labor Government – this is $5.4 million more than last year.

“This is in stark contrast to Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt, who have declared their intentions to short-change Victoria’s hospitals by $2.1 billion – and put patients at risk. Under the Turnbull Government’s National Health Reform Agreement 2020/21 to 2024/25, the Liberals are still refusing to pay their fair share, capping their contribution at 6.5 per cent growth, which won’t meet demand in our hospitals, and they’re refusing to increase the Commonwealth contribution rate to 50 per cent. Across Bass Coast, this will hit patients and local families hard.

“The agreement Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt put on the table would mean a $8.6 million shortfall for Bass Coast Health – that’s the equivalent of 29 fewer doctors, 69 fewer nurses or 1383 fewer surgeries.”

Greg Hunt comment

Quotes attributable to the Member for Flinders Greg Hunt are as follows:

“I welcome the announcement today.  It is something for which the local community has fought hard over many years.

“The next step is for the State to accept our new hospital agreement that would deliver over $7 billion of additional hospital funding to Victoria, including tens of millions of additional funding to Wonthaggi.

“Under the new deal offered by the Turnbull Government, Victorian hospital funding would increase from $24 billion in the five years to 2019-20, to more than $31 billion in the five years to 2024-25.

“This is a funding increase of nearly 30 per cent and takes into account Victoria’s strong population growth.

“The more patients treated, the more funding the Commonwealth provides. This applies to the entire Bass Coast local health network.

“Daniel Andrews must explain why Commonwealth funding for Victoria is growing faster than his own contribution.

“Between 2013-14 and 2016-17 the Commonwealth increased funding to Victorian hospitals by 36.4% while the Victorian Labor Government only increased its funding by 13.9%.

“From 2013-14 and 2016-17 the Federal Government increased funding to Wonthaggi Hospital by 67%, in comparison funding from Daniel Andrews only increased by only 47%.”