I rise to call on the Minister for Health to invest in plans for the redevelopment of Goulburn Valley Health and invite her to visit the hospital to assist herself in understanding the need for that investment.
This health facility has suffered from underinvestment for too long and is now struggling to cope.
Goulburn Valley Health has been known as a leading provider of health care in regional Victoria.
It services not only the Shepparton district but a much wider catchment, which stretches north to the Murray River and beyond and covers around 110 000 people.
Now the infrastructure is struggling to support the growing population of the catchment, and the area is being left behind. There are no cardiac services in Shepparton; you must travel to Bendigo or Melbourne. If you have cancer and require radiation therapy, you have to go to Bendigo or Melbourne. If you require eye surgery, you have to travel to Benalla or Melbourne for that treatment. The lack of operating theatres means that surgery cannot be performed in a timely and efficient manner. We cannot attract the surgeons we desperately need in our area because of the lack of appropriate operating facilities within the hospital.
The Goulburn Valley Health master plan has been in development for over 15 years. The service plan is almost complete, and strategic funding over a number of years will now be required to roll out the plans that have been in development for so long. We need urgent funding in the forthcoming budget for the preparatory stages of a new development and a commitment to funding a development more suited to the Shepparton district’s needs today and into the future.
Earlier this month Goulburn Valley Health confirmed that it was in escalation talks up to twice a week to move patients to Benalla and Cobram due to bed shortages. The emergency department is facing chronic bed shortages; it has 13 beds while it needs 30. Nurse-to-patient ratios are worsening. The sight of ambulances backing up outside the emergency department is not unusual. Late last year the Shepparton News reported that at least a dozen ambulances were waiting to offload patients, leaving only one available ambulance to service the region. Staff do a tremendous job caring for patients with the limited space they have, but the situation is not fair to them or those in their care.
Last year’s Victorian Labor Platform 2014 says ‘Everyone deserves world-class health care, regardless of their age, income, suburb or background’. In it Labor promised to address the issue of overcrowded emergency departments and life-threatening ambulance delays. Will the Andrews government back up its statement with real investment? I implore the government to use its first budget to show the residents of Shepparton and surrounds that they have not been forgotten. I urge the Minister for Health to give priority to funding stage 1 of the hospital redevelopment in the May budget and to promise to fund the additional stages planned.