‘Optimistic’ future for community health

A MEETING with Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss this week has left the Latrobe Valley’s community health provider “optimistic” about securing funding to establish a university training clinic and dental prosthetic lab at Churchill.

Latrobe Community Health Service chief executive Ben Leigh met with Mr Truss in Traralgon on Tuesday afternoon, where he was able to make a detailed case for funding.

“Warren was very keen to understand the benefits of the project for the Latrobe Valley,” Mr Leigh said.

“He showed a great deal of interest in the project, he was asking lots of questions.”

The $6.7 million project has been in limbo since the federal election.

Former Regional Australia Minister Catherine King committed $4 million to the facility last year, but the funding was not signed-off on before the change of government.

In a bid to progress the project, Member for Gippsland Darren Chester organised the meeting between Mr Leigh and Mr Truss, during the Acting Prime Minister’s visit to inspect the Princes Highway duplication.

Prior to the meeting, Mr Truss said his government had not made a decision whether to fund the project or not, but he would discuss the “number of options around”.

“We’ll talk about what the proposed timeframe is, how appropriate it is for us to be involved and how we might be able to make up for some lost time,” he said.

Mr Leigh said if funded, the facility would provide improved health services for the community, but also training opportunities for health professionals associated with Monash University’s medical school and Federation University.

“We will run interprofessional, student-led clinics there and it will be a place where medical students can work under supervision and provide services to the community,” Mr Leigh said.

“It’s going to provide new types of jobs and a new manufacturing base in the form of the dental prosthetic laboratory which will be a new industry for Gippsland and Latrobe.

“Also we want to develop the potential for research activities, particularly providing primary health services in rural areas. We want to attract research funding in conjunction with the university.”

LCHS is also seeking State Government funding for the project and has applied to the Department of Health under its rural health and capital grants program for funding.

“We are also in discussions with Regional Development Victoria to see whether there is any funding available through the Latrobe Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund,” Mr Leigh said.

The health service will put an existing federal Department of Health and Ageing grant of $297,000 towards the facility, along with its own contribution of $500,000.

“I did say to Mr Truss the project was ready to go and that we could commence construction very quickly,” Mr Leigh said.