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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4930

Mr HUNT (Flinders) (17:57): Thank you very much, Deputy Speaker Mitchell, and may I say you are looking resplendent in a courageous combination of lilac and duck egg blue!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Mitchell ): Flattery will get you everywhere!

Mr HUNT: Let me turn to this report from the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing. It is a report which deals ultimately with the issues faced by rural and regional communities in attracting and retaining medical support for their communities. I want to deal with it in the context of the destruction of Warley Hospital on Phillip Island by the current government after it came to power in 2007 and 2008. I want to deal in particular with the destruction, the proposal in response, the let-down which we have just experienced from the government and the way forward. All of Phillip Island is looking for a way forward on long-term health facilities.

Let us address the destruction. Warley Hospital had been in place for over 80 years. Warley Hospital was founded by the people of Phillip Island who had subscribed to it in the early days and who had supported it along the way. It had received significant support from the Kennett government. It was one of very few remaining community hospitals. It was an heir to the bush-nursing tradition. It was a not-for-profit, community based, bush-nursing facility and yet it was allowed to die by the incoming government.

Warley had its challenges but we made a pledge which guaranteed that the hospital would survive. We took to the 2007 election $2½ million and within a month of coming to office this government had walked away from any support whatsoever for Warley Hospital. They deliberately chose to let a rural facility collapse. It was unjustifiable, it was unforgivable, and it will be remedied in time. What is the proposal to remedy it?

We have worked on a four-stage proposal for health services on Phillip Island. It is the community health hub. Stage 1 begins with a GP clinic and stage 2 emerges to include community health services such as dental, physio and occupational therapy. Stage 3 is nursing and hospital-type services such as palliative care, dialysis or consulting rooms and stage 4 is to have this community health hub integrated into the Wonthaggi Hospital as an annex, a satellite, a campus, with the appropriate facilities. It will not do everything, of course, but it would be a permanent facility. That is our task, our commitment and our responsibility to work to that end.

It will not be the stand-alone independent community hospital that Warley once was. Sadly, the destruction wrought by the current government will be almost impossible to mend, but we have a four-stage plan built by the community, designed by the community, which will take the legacy of over $1 million from the Warley Hospital Trust. It would also integrate federal funding and state funding. We will just work until we get there.

The disappointment is that the federal government had led the community to believe that they would receive funding as compensation for the failure to support Warley Hospital in the budget released two weeks ago. The community had sought this and hopes were raised. They were short-listed and the impression was that everything had been done properly and that it was merely a formality. Yet, when the moment came, the money was missing. The hospital vision was, again, postponed. There was not $1 million, not $100,000, not $10,000, not $1,000 and not even $1. That is a cruel neglect of, arguably, Victoria's premier regional tourism destination.

What we see are inadequate health facilities and inadequate medical facilities, all because the government failed to match and to respond to a critical need which could have had bipartisan support. It already had a pledge from the coalition. It already had a funding commitment. Yet that money was taken away by the incoming government with the destruction of a rural hospital which had been in place for 80 years.

Where do we go from here now that not only was the Warley Hospital taken away but the community health hub, which was indicated as coming, was not funded? Well, we keep going. We have our four-stage plan and we will fight for that. On our side we committed $2.5 million at the last two elections to the people of Phillip Island towards that hospital with the four-stage plan, and we will renew that commitment. We have had it confirmed internally that there will be $2.5 million. We will add that to the Warley Hospital funding and we will, hopefully, add it to funding from the state. Therefore, we can have a permanent facility which is about rebuilding medical, health and hospital facilities on Phillip Island.

Very briefly, what occurred was unforgiveable. What has transpired since is merely negligence. What will happen in the future is that the people of Phillip Island will be successful in rebuilding their medical facilities, their health facilities, and we will simply not stop until there is an integration into the broader Wonthaggi Hospital system.