Budget snubs dental lab

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High hopes to secure much-anticipated Commonwealth funding for a dental prosthetics lab in Churchill have been dashed once again, after the project failed a mention in Tuesday’s Federal Budget.

Buoyed by the State Labor Government following through with an election commitment to allocate $1 million to the project last week, Latrobe Community Health Service harboured optimism for a $2.664 million application through the Abbott Government’s Stronger Regions Fund.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed and we’re very hopeful if this is successful and it’s announced, it’ll be full steam ahead,” LCHS chief executive Ben Leigh said last week.

However, when 51 successful applicants were announced in the Federal Budget on Tuesday night, LCHS’s dental prosthetics lab was not among them.

“It’s disappointing because we did have high hopes that it might be successful in the first round. A lot of ground work has gone in and there’s been a lot of support for the project,” Mr Leigh said yesterday.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said he understood the dental lab “only just missed out” on meeting all the application criteria.

“My understanding is that it was very close, but there were some concerns about the financial viability (of the project),” Mr Chester said.

The project, which will be based at the LCHS Churchill campus, is expected to create 80 construction jobs and 38 ongoing jobs including 12 dental prosthetists.

However, the project has been in limbo since the 2013 federal election, after a $4 million funding commitment by former Regional Australia Minister Catherine King was not signed off before the change of government.

The project’s commencement will remain on hold, as LCHS seeks feedback on ways it can improve subsequent funding applications.

With the next round of Stronger Regions Fund funding opening tomorrow, Mr Chester said he remained hopeful the dental lab would get a “positive result” through the program, which had $700 million remaining in the funding pot.

“It’s now about working with LCHS to make any improvements to their submission that may help it achieve a successful result,” Mr Chester said.

Meanwhile, State Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford is set to visit LCHS to discuss further plans for the dental clinic tomorrow, following last week’s $1 million commitment to the project.