Euroa Health funding
24 November 2016
Ms RYAN (Euroa) — (12 080) The matter I raise tonight is for the attention of the Minister for Health. I have previously invited the minister to visit Euroa to meet with the board and CEO of Euroa Health to hear their case for public funding. Tonight I would like the minister again to agree to this very reasonable request.
The Shire of Strathbogie in my electorate has no publicly funded hospital beds, not a single one. The shire is home to more than 10 000 people, and is the only shire in the state without access to public hospital beds. If somebody does not have private health insurance, they are forced to travel to Shepparton, Benalla or Seymour to access publicly funded hospital care.
It is important to understand the context in which Euroa Health operates. Like many health services in a rural area, it has evolved from the old bush nursing hospital model. For the past 87 years it has provided outstanding health care to the region. It is a not-for-profit organisation run by a community-based board, and the local community makes an enormous effort each year to raise funds for the hospital. This weekend Seven Creeks Estate is holding its annual fair for that very purpose, and I look forward to attending that.
The hospital provides 24-hour acute hospital services, residential aged-care, allied health services and community support programs as well as a range of visiting health services. Euroa is not a wealthy community. The number of residents over the age of 60 is double that of the state average, and 70 per cent of households are low income. Many people simply cannot afford private health insurance, and as the number of war veterans and their widows in the community dwindles, so too has the number of people with private health insurance. It is likely that further financial strain will be placed on Euroa Health as a result of that, and the flow-on from that is added costs to the local community and added pressure to other regional hospitals.
That is without mentioning the fact that it also ties up the resources of the local ambulance, which has to transport patients to and from other hospitals, diverting it away from emergencies and also resulting in the ludicrous situation where, if somebody in Euroa Health's residential aged-care facility gets sick but does not have private health insurance, they have to be transported 50 kilometres even though the capacity to treat them might exist next door.
The government's silence on this issue has been absolutely deafening. As the minister would be aware, I supported Euroa Health's push for public beds during my election campaign and I was able to secure a commitment from the previous coalition government. If that had been delivered there would already be at least two publicly funded hospital beds, with the option of up to eight more.