1 March 2022
Haines stands up with border medicos to demand $300 million for new hospital funding
Independent Federal Member for Indi Dr Helen Haines has stepped out with doctors, nurses, midwives, and other border health workers to call on the federal government to commit $300 million for a new, world-class hospital on the border.
The rise in community pressure for the Federal Government to contribute funds comes after the Federal Treasurer confirmed to Dr Haines in Question Time last month that the government would “consider proposals on their merits” when questioned about for a new single-site hospital on the border.
“I’ve met with the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Health Minister on many occasions to put pressure on the federal government to work with the state governments to stump up the funds needed to make a new hospital on the border a reality.”
“The Federal Government has provided direct funds to build regional hospitals across the nation, and it’s time they showed up here on the border. The Treasurer says he’ll consider the merits of a proposal. Well, there’s a detailed master plan on the table and the community united behind this.”
The Federal Government spent major amounts on regional hospitals, including $128 million for the Shellharbour Hospital Redevelopment and $50 million towards a women and children’s hospital in Geelong.
“This will be a top priority for me at the election,” Dr Haines said
Albury Wodonga Health, which runs one of the busiest regional health services in the state and the only crossborder health service in the nation, is expected to release its much-anticipated masterplan in the coming weeks.
The latest modelling shows the border region will need a hospital capable of handling 150,000 emergency presentations, 40,000 surgeries and 1,900 births per annum by 2040.
“I stand with the board, the community and border health workers on this. More than 1,000 locals have written to me to share what a new world-class hospital on the border would mean for them. It’s time the Federal Government listened to them too.”
“The stress and trauma experienced by people who must travel to Melbourne for their medical care, or support their family members from a distance, adds to the difficulty of dealing with medical issues. We deserve to get the care we need close to home.”
Dr Haines also announced her regional health workforce policy platform.
“Addressing health issues in regional Australia isn’t as simple as building new hospitals, it’s about building the workforce, so we can see a doctor or nurse, or psychologist when we need to, and have access to world-class allied health services close to home,” Dr Haines said.
Dr Haines said she would fight to triple the number of locally trained doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other allied health workers across Indi, starting with the Murray Darling Medical Schools Network program at La Trobe University in Wodonga.
“Before becoming an MP, I spent a decade researching the best ways to grow and retain a strong regional health workforce.”
“Schemes to attract medical professionals to the regions like those proposed by the government and Labor are fraught with problems. We’ve got young people with talent right here in Indi who, given stronger facilities and opportunity, would stay in the regions and train as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists locally instead of moving off to the cities.”
“The Murray Darling Medical Schools Network program at La Trobe University is fantastic, but fifteen new doctors a year is nowhere near what we need to build a sustainable local health workforce for generations to come.”
Dr Haines also announced a plan to triple the amount of federal funding to $33 million for mid-career regional health professionals to take on upskilling opportunities.
“Our health workers have been stretched to the limit because of the pandemic. We shouldn’t be playing catch up and asking health workers to simply ‘step up’ in a crisis where the system has left them behind. We should be investing in and expanding our regional health workforce now to ensure we’re never stretched to the limit again.”
“I want to see every health worker in the regions have access to $20,000 in funding to upskill. If a nurse wants to learn critical care or palliative care skills, or specialise in mental health, we should give them the resources and backing to do that.”
“It could be used for course fees, childcare costs, supplementary income – whatever it takes to support our health workers to grow professionally.”
Current Federal funding to support regional health workers to take on upskilling courses is capped at $11 million nationwide; despite being oversubscribed for many years. The Federal Health Workforce Scholarship Program also excludes public sector workers and all of Wodonga.
“It’s absolutely nonsensical. The regional health workforce crisis is felt everywhere. It doesn’t magically disappear in Wodonga. Our regional health workforce has been chronically underfunded for years and it’s time that changed.
“If we create opportunities for long-term fulfilling health careers in our region, we all benefit. Junior doctors become senior doctors, allied health professionals stay and grow. This is what we need to keep health workers here and embedded in our communities.”