Support sought for medical project

THE Federal Government has been asked to support an ambitious multi-million dollar proposal for a new medical and training facility in the Latrobe Valley, despite the federal budget allocating a minimal sum to the region.

Latrobe Community Health Service has now formally lodged a $5 million funding application under the Federal Government’s ‘regional diversification’ programs to help it establish a Latrobe Valley University Training Clinic and dental prosthetics manufacturing facility in Churchill.

Last week LCHS chief executive Ben Leigh said LCHS had submitted “a comprehensive business case outlining the need for, and potential benefits of, the $6.7 million project” following an invitation from Federal Regional Services, Local Communities and Territories Minister Catherine King.

“Recently Ms King visited the proposed site in Churchill and she was very interested in our proposal and requested we submit a business case,” he said.

“We are pleased to be able to submit our detailed case to the Federal Government and are hopeful of a positive response from them in the near future.”

Mr Leigh said LCHS hoped to secure $5 million in financial support from the government and would contribute a further $1.6 million of its own to the project.

Ms King toured the proposed Churchill site during a visit to the Valley early last month, where she said she would have her department assess the LCHS proposal and the Moe Activity Centre Plan proposal quickly with the aim of making “some decisions relatively quickly”.

Ms King said there would be some money available to the region for its economic diversification but declined to say how much.

The federal budget subsequently revealed just $1.4 million would be available in the next financial year and $1.3 million the year after followed by sums of $2.6 million in 2015-16 and $3.9 million in 2016-17.

The Latrobe Valley Transition Committee has thrown its support behind the LCHS proposal but also declared the $15.8 million Moe Activity Centre Plan its number one priority for ‘diversification’ funding.

Promoting the benefits of LCHS’s proposed facility, Mr Leigh said it would “be a major boon for the Latrobe Valley” and provided “an opportunity to become the basis of a new industrial focus for the region”.

“We hope the dual manufacturing and training facility will produce exportable innovations in the field of medical research and training systems,” he said.

“The prosthetics manufacturing would serve all of regional Victoria.”

Mr Leigh said up to 100 new jobs were expected to be created during the project’s construction phase and through the prosthetics manufacturing facility.