A new 24-hour hospital in Melbourne’s west is a step closer after the Victorian government revealed one of the state’s largest public health service providers will run the facility.
Western Health will operate the Melton hospital and integrate it into existing health services in the western suburbs, including the Sunshine and Footscray hospitals, acting health minister Martin Foley announced on Tuesday.
The state government had made a $2.4 million election commitment in 2018 for a business case, but it stopped short of fully funding the hospital and has not revealed when construction will begin.
Dr Ian Birchall, committee member of Build Melton Hospital, said appointing Western Health as the operator was a "very positive step".
"By appointing a major group like Western Health to steer the direction is a step in the right direction but the government has to commit to building the hospital sooner rather than later," Dr Birchall said.
"Labor is starting to listen and we’ve been able to get commitments … they’re going to be scared of losing one of their safe seats."
The tender for the business case has gone out to a shortlist of six consultants, who will carry out the planning and design work and find the best site for the new hospital, which is likely to be in Toolern, on the outskirts of Melton.
Thirty-three GPs, cardiologists and radiographers signed a letter last month imploring both state and federal governments to commit to fully funding the hospital in Melton.
"Due to inadequate access to hospitals, prolonged transfer times and extended waits in emergency departments, avoidable deaths of patients are now becoming a regular occurrence in the district of Melton," the letter reads.
"Why is Melton being neglected when all comparable population centres in Victoria have hospitals with 24-hour emergency departments, operating theatres, acute beds and psychiatric facilities?"
Melton’s population has already exceeded that of Ballarat. It is expected to swell from about 164,000 to 200,000 over the next five years. By 2031, the population is projected to surpass 250,000 and grow steadily to more than 400,000 in the next 30 years.
The government had been under increasing pressure to fund a public hospital in Melton, with the calls ramped up after it was revealed 11 babies had died in potentially avoidable circumstances at the nearby Bacchus Marsh hospital.
"As one of the fastest growing communities in Australia, Melton locals deserve a world-class, 24-hour public hospital, right on their doorstep," Mr Foley said.
"Melton’s new hospital will be in trusted hands. Western Health has a proud track record providing the highest quality care to patients throughout Melbourne’s booming western suburbs.”
More to come