THE Committee for Gippsland recently asked internationally renowned demographer and social commentator Bernard Salt to pay us a visit and paint a picture of Gippsland’s future by numbers.
This article was first published in the 10 October 2014 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
The picture painted was a bright one. For example, Mr Salt said that over the last two census periods, there was growth in 17 out of 19 of Gippsland’s industry sectors including construction, food, education, and manufacturing, among others.
At the top of that list was healthcare, which is growing exponentially in response to a growing population.
Within and beyond the region, Baw Baw Shire is one of the fastest growing regional municipalities in Victoria.
The other message Mr Salt drove home was that by population, Gippsland is the 9th largest market in Australia – in other words, we are just too big to ignore.
Combining those points – a growing population, demand for more healthcare services in the region, and Gippsland’s dominance beyond our borders, leads to some interesting conclusions.
These points aren’t new for many of us. That’s why the Committee for Gippsland has been advocating for a new hospital for West Gippsland since 2011. The proposal now has broad support in both local and state government.
The reasons are compelling. In the last 12 months alone, the West Gippsland Healthcare Group (Warragul Hospital) has delivered 960 babies, treated over 20,000 patients in emergency, undertaken 3,521 procedures, and provided palliative care to community and inpatients.
But the existing hospital site is small and was originally built in the 1940’s. The infrastructure and many of the buildings are extremely old and costly to operate and maintain.
Already, sheer population demand is placing significant strain on the current ageing and inadequately-sized hospital building.
There is a solution though. The West Gippsland Healthcare Group purchased 23.64 hectares of land in 2007 at Lardners Track with funds from a donation. So in other words, rebuilding on a new site won’t require the costly acquisition of new land. The hospital already owns it.
A new hospital would offer significant improvements, including direct access to ambulance bays and the emergency department, an energy and material efficient building design, improved clinical facilities and patient amenities, easy pedestrian access, plus much improved car park facilities, provision of a dedicated EMS helipad, and more employment opportunities for our local community.
Bernard Salt was right about Gippsland – we have a broad-based economy, sustainable population growth, and a bright future ahead. But to succeed we need our community infrastructure to keep pace, and that means securing funding for a new hospital in West Gippsland.
The Committee for Gippsland represents industry in the region and is based in Warragul.
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