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Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Page: 1019

Mr SYMON (7:54 PM) —I would like to inform the House of developments at Maroondah Hospital, a large public hospital in my electorate of Deakin. As the member for Deakin since 2007 I am always out and about talking to local people about what concerns them. One of the most frequent topics of discussion is the quality and accessibility of local health services. Whether it is getting in to see a doctor, the length of waiting lists at local hospitals or the treatment at emergency wards, health in the outer eastern suburbs is now and always has been one of the high-order issues.

During the election campaign, back on 14 August, we announced that if re-elected a federal Labor government would invest $5.7 million to deliver 20 new subacute beds to Maroondah Hospital and a further 10 subacute beds to Angliss Hospital, which is in the neighbouring electorate of La Trobe. Both these hospitals are part of the Eastern Health network. A total of seven hospitals run under that banner.

On 14 August Nicola Roxon, the federal Minister for Health and Ageing, the Victorian health minister Daniel Andrews, and I made an announcement at Maroondah Hospital on a lovely sunny Saturday morning—a very nice setting for an announcement like that. The announcement was part of a larger package of funding—a big one—of $265 million for new capital works projects and equipment. It came about as a direct result of the National Health and Hospitals Network Agreement reached between the federal and, in this case, the Victorian state government. This agreement, signed in April this year, not only delivered these 20 new subacute beds for Maroondah Hospital but will, over the next four years, deliver more than $900 million in additional federal spending in Victoria. New beds will mean shorter waiting lists. Sick patients will get to surgery quicker and families will get better access to the health care they need, both for them and their children.

 Maroondah Hospital is some distance out of Melbourne proper. It is 30 kays east of Melbourne and it has a huge catchment area. It does not really have a major hospital further east than that, so many people come from the outer suburbs and outlying areas to get treatment there. Originally built in 1976 and now operating with 326 beds, Maroondah Hospital also operates as a teaching hospital. But, despite recent expansions and rebuilding, it continues to get busier, as I said, as people travel in for treatment not only from outlying areas but also because our local population is ageing, so there is a heavy demand on the hospital.

In addition, Maroondah Hospital also provides secondary acute care and acute adult mental health services. Under that heading comes things such as the emergency department, general and specialist medicine and surgery, critical care services, ambulatory and allied health services. Like most hospitals the emergency department is always busy but waiting times have been dropping, and that is a good thing. But I expect to see them drop even more once the National Health and Hospitals Network is in full operation.

For many residents of Deakin and the surrounding areas in the outer eastern suburbs, there is no alternative but to go to the emergency department at your local public hospital if you have a sick child in the middle of the night. It is not that easy to find a GP who is open and, even though we are extending programs so that there will be, it is still a difficult task.

Overall this extra $265 million in funding will mean that Victorian hospitals will have the capacity to treat 5,000 extra patients every year, once these additional beds are in place. That is happening soon and that is a good thing to hear.

I would like to commend the state Labor government, led by Premier John Brumby, for working in partnership with the Gillard Labor government to deliver better health services for the people of Victoria. It is so important. I would also like to thank the board and CEO of Eastern Health and the health professionals working at Maroondah Hospital for their hard work to ensure that they have the capacity to use these federal funds and serve the local electorate.

Under the National Health and Hospitals Network the reforms that will come in will see surgery waiting lists cut. It will see treatment times at emergency wards capped at four hours and will deliver an additional 5,500 new or training GP places over the next 10 years. The federal government’s health reforms will bring the total new health investment over the next five years to $7.3 billion. I look forward to the opening of these 20 extra subacute beds in the near future and know that the community and residents of Deakin will benefit greatly.