Health wins in budget

By Colin MacGillivray

THE start of a new community hospital and school upgrades are among the big-ticket items for the City of Whittlesea in last week’s Victorian Budget.

More than $66 million was set aside in the budget to fund the planning and purchasing of land for new community hospitals across the state, including one in Whittlesea.

The new hospital will be managed by Northern Health and is planned to feature a range of services including: community mental health assessment; alcohol and drug support; dialysis support; community-based palliative care, chemotherapy and rehabilitation; general practice, including primary care nursing; women’s health, including sexual health, family planning family and early childhood services; family safety and crisis support; diagnostic services, including pathology and imaging pharmacy; public dental services; day surgery; and chronic disease management.

Construction on the hospital is expected to start in 2022 and finish by 2024. Budget funding will enable the acquisition of a site for the hospital once it is selected.

City of Whittlesea administrator chair Lydia Wilson said the funding was a win for the community and described the government’s budget as ‘well-rounded’.

“This year’s budget looks very different to previous years with state-wide projects prioritised, however we are very pleased to share in funding that will deliver much-needed services for our community,” she said.

“We are also delighted to see funding allocated for the purchase of a new community hospital site in our municipality, and for more mental health initiatives at Epping’s Northern Hospital.”

Also funded in the budget were $12.9 million to upgrade Lalor Primary School, $26.17 million for Lalor Secondary College, $11.6 million for Mill Park Secondary College and $8.2 million for Peter Lalor Secondary College.

Ms Wilson welcomed the funding describing investment in schools in established areas of the municipality as ‘very important’.

Ms Wilson said council would continue to advocate for a share of funding earmarked for metropolitan road projects after no road duplication projects were listed in the budget for the city.

“We thank our local members of parliament for continuing to advocate on behalf of local communities, identifying projects and providing funding for local community needs and we look forward to securing funding for additional projects from the state-wide budget allocations,” she said.

Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said the budget was one that ‘put people first’.

She said the budget would help Victoria recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The government’s investment will… support local jobs, with our school infrastructure build expected to create more than 6400 jobs across the state,” she said.

“With these investments we’ll help Yan Yean locals reskill, upskill and find new opportunity, giving them security and certainty about their future.”

Ms Green said other wins for the Yan Yean electorate included a $1.3 million expansion of the Plenty Valley bus network with a new service between Mernda and Craigeburn and improvements to five school services, investment in community spaces including Yan Yean Reservoir Park and Hawkstowe Park, and an additional $50 million towards the Growing Suburbs Fund to help build new local facilities.

Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell criticised the budget for not allocating any money to the upgrade of Whittlesea Police Station.

“Despite the government borrowing a record $24.5 billion and racking up $155 billion in state debt, the Andrews Labor Government still cannot find any money to upgrade at the Whittlesea Police Station,” she said.

“Frankly, the police members at Whittlesea as well as the wider community deserve better from Danielle Green after she promised an upgrade to the station over three years ago.”

Also included in the budget was a $5.3 billion commitment to build social housing across the state. Whittlesea has been identified as a priority local government area under the project.