LATROBE Regional Health is among the big winners in this year’s State Budget, with $44 million in funding allocated.

The state government contribution will help the hospital staff the expanded facilities that include 44 inpatient beds, 14 medical and surgical beds, a new emergency department resuscitation bay, and a medical imaging pathology unit.

The funding is part of a state government commitment of $117 million to operate expanded facilities at health services.

Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Harriet Shing, announced the budget at LRH on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 7.

“As part of the 2024/25 State Budget, we’re also committing $44 million to LRH to operationalise the new wings and to make sure that overall in our budget expenditure we’re taking care of providing healthcare to people right across the state, closer to where they live,” she said.

LRH chief executive, Don McRae said the state government’s contribution will go a long way to staffing the new upgraded wings of the hospital.

“The new facilities at LRH are going to create an opportunity for us to be able to better serve our community and provide patient-centred care,” he said.

“The additional funding provided by the government will help us to operationalise the facilities and to employ the staff that they need to deliver that care.”

The $223.5 million stage 3A of the Latrobe Regional Hospital expansion in Traralgon was completed earlier this year. The multi-stage project has increased capacity and services at the hospital. This project involved the expansion of maternity services, upgrades to emergency department facilities, and the opening of additional operating theatres.

With 44 new points of care for the hospital’s staff, this funding will help LRH hire the required nursing and support staff to deliver care safely.

“We’ve been running a number of targeted recruitment campaigns for the staff that we need, and we have been very successful. We’ve been able to attract 50 new staff from the UK for example, and we’ve got another 45-odd staff in the pipeline from New Zealand. We have also been able to attract staff from metro Melbourne,” Mr McRae said.

Questions have been raised on how the hospital is intended to staff the new maternity ward and expanded facilities, but with this government funding, the hospital will get the new upgrades operating faster.

The funding might be a huge win for LRH, but some uncertainty still looms over the rest of Gippsland’s healthcare network.

Regional hospitals were told to brace for forced amalgamations ahead of this year’s State Budget as an independent expert advisory committee reaches the final stages of a Health Service Plan to reform the current system.

When Minister Shing was questioned whether centralising Gippsland health funding at LRH was a sign of future amalgamation, she said the funding was to help LRH keep up with patient demand.

“We are determined to make sure that our hospitals have the operational funding that they need to meet the demand in increased patient, client and consumer numbers,” she said.

Though Ms Shing failed to shut down the amalgamation theories, she did say that being “efficient” and “effective” as possible was a priority in healthcare.

Alongside the announced LRH funding, the state government announced it will support a bed-based services in Traralgon, with 10 new beds to provide more support for young people experiencing mental health challenges.

The state government is also investing $6.9 million to deliver early intervention for Victorians with an eating disorder, including establishing an Eating Disorders Day Program in regional Victoria.