A NEW mental health centre in Warrnambool and an overhaul of Port Fairy’s hospital have been bankrolled in a pre-election cash splash.
Tuesday's state budget contained $4.2 million for a new Prevention and Recovery Care centre, catering for 10 mental health patients with eight new beds and two day beds.
Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge said construction of the new centre would create 12 new jobs, with Warrnambool Base Hospital expected to play a role in its administration.
Premier and member for South West Coast Denis Napthine said the centre would provide additional beds and day places for people requiring mental health clinical support, stabilisation and rehabilitation.
“The service, due for completion in 2017, will provide 24-hour treatment and support from clinicians and mental health recovery workers – all in a positive community environment,” Dr Napthine said.
“This investment in mental health beds and day services is a boost for the people of the south west – providing better and more appropriate mental health care in our local community."
Moyne Health Services were also a big winner with a $3 million committed to redevelop its Port Fairy hospital following years of community lobbying.
The $4.5 million project will see the demolition of the current community health facility on the Port Fairy site, and the construction of a purpose-built community health centre with scope for future expansion.
“The Victorian Coalition Government is pleased to be able to make a significant capital contribution to this much-needed development to benefit the Port Fairy community,” Dr Napthine said.
“The works will provide a new and modern facility to deliver community health services.
“I congratulate Moyne Health Services on providing a $1.5 million co-contribution, which includes a generous $750,000 from the Port Fairy Folk Festival committee.”
No concrete start dates have been made for the two projects although both are pencilled in for the 2014-15 financial year.
Deputy Premier Peter Ryan told reporters “there would be plenty more where that came from” for regional Victoria, suggesting an election campaign splurge.
“This is the returns for regional Victoria after they placed their faith in us four years ago (at the last state election),” Mr Ryan said.
“There’ll be plenty more for regional Victoria between now and November. “We already have the runs on the board but the focus on regional infrastructure will continue.”
Most of the region’s key cash gains had been pre-announced the state government including $5 million for resurfacing of the Woolsthorpe-Heywood Road alongside smaller projects.
Estimated expenditure on the south-west’s radiotherapy centre is projected to be $8.4 million in the 2014-15 financial year, funding the long-awaited goal of community campaign Peter’s Project.
State Treasurer Michael O’Brien said the big ticket item for the south-west remained duplication of the Princes Highway between Colac and Winchelsea.
More than $360 million has been committed to the project which was originally pledged by the then Gillard government and Abbott opposition during the 2010 election campaign.
It will follow on from the highway duplication work between Waurn Ponds and Winchelsea, scheduled for later this year.
Mr O’Brien told State Parliament 250 jobs would be created through the duplication of the highway.
“This is a brilliant project, a substantial investment in a highway which is experiencing increased use from both freight and ordinary vehicles,” he said.
The Treasurer said Victoria’s population growth had exceeded expectations, rising 1.8 per cet rather than the projected 1.7 per cent during the past calendar year.
“There’s a reason for that- Victoria is a great place to live and many seem to agree,” Mr O’Brien said.
However, the budget papers showed the Western District was the second poorest-performing area out of nine regions in terms of population growth.
The south-west’s residential base has been static for the past five years compared to strong growth in the Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong regions.