Overwhelming community support for a new hospital on a greenfield site will form the backbone for pre-election lobbying for state government funding.
With the community clearly on board for a new hospital, West Gippsland Healthcare Group chief executive officer Dan Weeks and board chairman Brian Davey said there was one job left – convince politicians of the need to fund a feasibility study and commit to a new hospital.
WGHG commissioned O’Keefe and Partners to undertake a survey to determine community support, attitudes and concerns about a proposed new hospital on land owned by the healthcare group on the corner of Lardners Trk and Princes Way at Drouin East.
Mr Weeks said they were advised 200 to 300 responses to the survey would be “industry standard.” The board was blown away with the 1540 responses, which he said showed a clear expression of interest in the project.
“There is overwhelming fondness for the current hospital, but despite that, there was overwhelming support for a new hospital on a greenfield site.
“We didn’t want backlash or a save our hospital campaign. We basically knew that a new hospital was favoured, but we wanted to test it,” Mr Weeks said.
The healthcare group has responded quickly, already writing to both Coalition and ALP members of parliament to point out the high level of engagementand community support for a new hospital.
The aim now is to secure about $5 million state government funding that will complete a feasibility study, business plan and works that will keep the current hospital meeting service needs.
In reality, Mr Weeks said a new hospital could be still 10 years away given planning and design could take more than two years and construction could take five years.
To meet immediate needs, Mr Weeks said the $5 million would allow for works at the existing site.
He said 1000 babies was the “new norm” for birth numbers at the hospital so that pressure point needed to be addressed.
He said a third theatre to cater for obstetric and gynaecological emergencies would relieve pressures on elective surgery.
“We have to get our current capacity at the best level we can while we wait for a new hospital,” Mr Davey said.
Survey respondents indicated a high degree of respect for the current hospital’s staff, strong support for a new hospital and unanimous agreement that government should fund the project
There was unanimous agreement that the current hospital would not cope with increased pressure from population growth in the next 15 to 20 years and 93 per cent agreed a new hospital was the answer. Two per cent said they did not support a new hospital and five per cent said they were unsure.
Mr Davey said some concerns were identified relating to public transport to the new site and traffic issues.
He said a bus service currently operated between Warragul and Drouin so these were “fixable issues not problems.”
All survey respondents indicated a unanimous belief that government should fund the hospital. Respondents said both the state and federal governments should provide some, if not all of the funding.
For the immediate need to fund the feasibility study, business plan and stop-gap works, Mr Weeks and Mr Davey are hopeful the state election will prompt bi-partisan support.
“The important thing for us is this is a community issue with community support and there is a need for it (the hospital) no matter who is in power.
“The case is so strong. This isn’t about an old building, the people are coming (population growth) and there is no denying that,” Mr Weeks said.
– Article by Yvette Brand. Excerpt from The Warragul & Drouin Gazette, Tuesday 21st October 2014.