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May 31, 2011

The urgent need for a new emergency department at Latrobe Regional Hospital is on the Federal Government’s radar.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester highlighted the need for a major upgrade at Latrobe Regional Hospital during a speech in Federal Parliament.

Mr Chester told the Government of his strong support for an application for $65 million under the Health and Hospitals Fund regional priority round to build a new improved emergency department and additional endoscopy facilities and offer more beds for acute care.

“Current facilities fall well below existing standards and are not adequate to meet growing community needs, which is affecting LRH’s ability to meet its designated role as a regional hospital and a teaching facility,” Mr Chester told Parliament.

“This situation will be exacerbated in the future with predicted growth in demand of 13 per cent over the next 10 years.

“It is critical in that regard that the Federal Government recognises the growth that is going on in the Latrobe Valley community.

“With an ageing population, the increase in demand on our health services is apparent and I encourage the Federal Government to continue to invest in facilities at LRH.”

Mr Chester said improved facilities and the increased capabilities would make it easier to recruit and train medical specialists in the region and reduce the burden on Melbourne health services.

“Naturally there is a double benefit in that regard—we can actually service more people in our local communities rather than having them be forced to go to Melbourne, adding to the waiting lists in Melbourne,” Mr Chester told Parliament.

“I am advised that the cost of unnecessary patient transport at the moment is in the vicinity of $29 million a year and that money could be recouped by government as a result of expanding this facility so that more patients can be treated in the Latrobe Valley.

“We also have the hidden health issue of patients who are deciding not to seek treatment because it is too difficult for them to access it, particularly in communities like Gippsland where the travel to Melbourne can be in excess of three or four hours.

“People are making the decision that it is all too hard to go to Melbourne, find accommodation and access services in the city.

“I admit it is hard to measure this particular issue, but I constantly receive anecdotal information about people from the more remote parts of my region who are choosing not to pursue advanced treatment because they have to go to Melbourne.

“It is a key concern for us in our regional communities.”

Mr Chester said the $65 million application was stage 2A of a larger redevelopment.

“A master plan has been endorsed by the Victorian Department of Health, under both the previous Labor state government and the current Coalition Government,” Mr Chester said.

“The project does have government support. It also has widespread community support, particularly the rebuilding of the hospital’s emergency department where waiting times have become an issue of increasing concern.

“I have a great deal of sympathy for the staff at the front-line of the emergency department. They often cop all the poor headlines in terms of people being forced to wait for treatment and to wait on trolleys for extended periods of time. The staff bear the brunt of that criticism when, really, they are completely overwhelmed by the demand for services.

“I do encourage the Federal Government to continue to work with the State Government on this most important upgrade and opportunity to expand the facilities at LRH.”

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