The state government will conduct a comprehensive review to identify health care needs in West Gippsland but opponents believe the action could see patients turned away from West Gippsland Hospital.
The states health minister, Jill Hennessy, said during question time last month the future role and potential upgrades to the hospital will be considered by Monash Health in Berwick and the Latrobe Regional Hospital.
“An area-based strategic services plan will make recommendations on the scope of health services to be delivered in the short, medium and longer term by the West Gippsland Healthcare Group and neighbouring health providers to best meet emerging health care demands”, Ms Hennessy said.
“The study will consider links between the Casey campus of Monash Health in Berwick, the Latrobe Regional Hospital in Traralgon and the West Gippsland Healthcare Group in Warragul.”
Liberal member for Narracan Gary Blackwood has however questioned whether the Andrews government’s review will see a reduction in local services, forcing patients to visit other major hospitals over an hour away.
“When this plan was announced, I voiced concerns about Labor using the study to divert patients away from the West Gippsland Hospital to avoid making significant investments to secure the future of the service in Warragul,” Mr Blackwood said.
“Labor is positioning itself to undermine our local hospital in favour of neighbouring health providers who have already received funding to expand the services they provide.”
Mr Blackwood said not providing funding to the West Gippsland hospital for expansions would be detrimental to health outcomes in the Gippsland region.
“Without a substantive investment in the West Gippsland Hospital, demand will quickly outpace delivery and the local communities will suffer as a result.”
In a recent parliamentary sitting Ms Hennessy said the review would be completed by independent consultants early next year.
Mr Blackwood said the review was being stalled and the public had a right to know the state government’s intention.
“A statement by the minister that the review will be completed in 2016 is not good enough and the community has the right to know today that this review will not be used to reduce or close local services delivered at Warragul Hospital”, Mr Blackwood said.
Local Labor MP Harriet Shing was unavailable for comment.