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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3147

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (09:36): I have spoken before in this place on the urgent need to upgrade the Latrobe Regional Hospital in my electorate. I appreciate the opportunity today to update the House on the level of community support for a campaign that I have initiated to draw attention to this critically important facility. I have distributed a flyer, Help fix our hospital, throughout my electorate. It urges Gippslanders to join my campaign to secure $65 million from the federal government to upgrade LRH. There has been overwhelming support in the past couple of weeks for this campaign. More than 1,500 people have supported the campaign either by signing the mini petition or expressing support in other ways.

Today, I again make a public plea to urge Gippsland and Latrobe Valley residents to demonstrate their support for their hospital this weekend. The annual Latrobe Regional Hospital Run for Your Life fun run is on this Sunday. It is a great opportunity for locals to demonstrate through practical action that they support LRH. This is an important fundraising initiative for the hospital, with funds raised assisting the allied health department. The hospital is aiming to raise in the order of $500,000 over two years for new equipment for this facility. The community is certainly doing its bit to raise money, but it cannot be expected to fund raise the whole $65 million that is required for the upgrade that I have talked about.

I will make sure that the petition is available this Sunday for people to sign. That will allow people to express their support for the campaign to encourage the government to make that commitment in the upcoming budget. Last year, more than 600 people registered for the fun run. I am hoping that we can break that record this weekend.

I have been very well supported in my campaign by my state colleague Russell Northe and also by the chair of the board, Kellie O'Callaghan, who is also a Latrobe City councillor. Kellie has been a real champion of LRH, in conjunction with her chief executive, Peter Craighead, and all of the other board members and staff. They recognise that there is a critical need for this upgrade. From my experience, the staff and the board at LRH do a terrific job in conditions that make it very difficult for them to maintain such a high level of service. They are certainly stretched to the limit in many departments but perhaps the most obvious cause for concern is the emergency department, which is struggling under the weight of demand. The facilities there do not meet the level of what is required for current demand, let alone future demand given expectations for growth.

To the government's credit, we have had some significant funding commitments to the Latrobe Valley in relation to health services, with the Gippsland Cancer Care Centre and the Gippsland Rotary Centenary House. They have been very well received in our region. But we need this upgrade to proceed in the next budget round. I am encouraging government ministers who have come to the Latrobe Valley and talked a lot about the level of support that they are going to provide in the wake of the carbon tax to support this upgrade. They have talked about having a more holistic approach to regional development, taking into account such things as health and education services. I say to those ministers that the time for talk is over. We need a major funding commitment to improve our health services in this year's budget. We need to help fix our hospital. I urge the relevant ministers to support this funding application, just as I urge Gippslanders to support the Latrobe Regional Hospital and join in this Sunday's fun run.