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Thursday, 27 March 2003
Page: 13895


Mr HUNT (1:19 PM) —Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I rise to speak in support of the Koo Wee Rup Regional Health Service on three fronts: firstly, to congratulate the magnificent staff, administration and board of management; secondly, to highlight a significant funding threat which is posing a great challenge to the staff of the health service which runs the hospital; and, thirdly, to highlight a strategic direction which I believe we should be taking.

In relation to the first of these points, the staff of the Koo Wee Rup Regional Health Service, which has two principal responsibilities—managing the hospital function and managing the aged care facilities—is a magnificent body of people. It is a group of dedicated staff, of extraordinary capability with great commitment, great compassion and a great passion for the work that they undertake. They are backed up through Terrona Ramsay, the CEO of the Koo Wee Rup Regional Health Service, with a tremendous administration and a board which is run and managed by the chairperson of that board, Garry King. To all of those members of this community facility, I offer my thanks and congratulations.

The second point I wish to make is that they are operating under a severe constraint. During a recent transitional program conducted by the state government, they found that they lost a series of their capital resources, which were transferred from their own capital account to other hospitals within the state government system. As a result of that, despite the magnificent work of the staff and the administration, they are suffering pressure on four fronts. Firstly, they have a capital deficiency which has resulted from the write-off provisions which have already occurred under the state government. Secondly, because they will be restricted in the range of activities that they are able to carry out, they will be suffering an operating loss, which would not have occurred but for the changes in the range of activities which they are able to offer. Thirdly, they will be suffering a balance sheet deficiency, again as a result of the change in the administrative arrangements. Fourthly, this will lead to an overdraft that they would not otherwise have had to have experienced.

How can we deal with this problem? I call upon the state government of Victoria to work with the board, the staff and the management of the Koo Wee Rup Regional Health Service to produce a strategic direction, in a spirit of bipartisanship, and with cooperation between community, state and federal authorities. I would be delighted to participate and assist in helping with the development of the strategic direction for the Koo Wee Rup Regional Health Service. There are, I believe, four elements which are essential to the satisfactory completion of the strategic direction and, above all else, to ensuring that this community has a long-term and viable health service.

Firstly, the state government needs to make a clear and distinctive decision as to whether or not Koo Wee Rup will be incorporated within the metropolitan health strategy. That is a necessary prerequisite for all the other elements which are to be pursued. Secondly, we need to convert the WEIS funding stream to a Healthstreams model. That means that they would be given a single dollar amount and the Koo Wee Rup health service itself would then have flexibility within its own budget to control its priorities, its expenditures and its self-administration. Thirdly, an urgent upgrade to the theatre facilities is needed. The Koo Wee Rup hospital is famous within Victoria for the quality of the surgery carried out within the facilities of the hospital. One of the barriers to even more work is the need for an urgent theatre upgrade. The hospital staff are desperate to make sure that they are in full compliance with Australian standards, and only an upgrade in the facilities will allow them to do that.

Fourthly and finally, we need to encourage the state government to put forward the aged care facility at the Koo Wee Rup Regional Health Service for future funding under the federal aged care program. I would be delighted to do that, but we can only do that if it is endorsed by the state government. I commend the health service and urge the state government to produce a strategic review.

Main Committee adjourned at 1.24 p.m.