Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos has just two months to make good on her promise to visit the Warrnambool's cramped hospital as a new report reveals another rise in patient numbers, adding weight to the upgrade case.
Ms Mikakos told The Standard in early July that she would inspect the hospital later in the year after it was revealed she had failed to take up South West Coast MP Roma Britnell's invitation almost a year ago.
Now approaching the close of the year and with only two more parliamentary sitting weeks left after this week, the question was put to the minister as to when she would make the trip to see the hospital for herself.
Ms Mikakos said she would make it by the end of the year but could not provide a date or time.
"I am very much looking forward to meeting local patients, doctors, nurses and other hospital staff at the Warrnambool Base Hospital later this year and listening to their views about the health needs of their community," she said.
"Getting big hospital projects right means proper planning. It was Labor who previously invested $115 million for stage one of the Warrnambool Hospital upgrade and it's Labor who has invested another $7.5 million on capital planning to ensure the health service and any future works meet the future needs of the local community."
In the past year South West Healthcare saw a 7.2 per cent increase in patients, a 6.4 per cent increase in ambulance arrivals and 12.3 per cent increase in surgeries.
That breaks down to 25,391 patient admissions, 27,685 emergency department treatments, 5384 ambulance arrivals and 8602 surgeries performed.
The numbers mark the hospital's 14th consecutive record year of patient throughput.
Hospital CEO Craig Fraser said significant time had been spent completing plans for the "vitally-needed" Warrnambool and Camperdown hospital upgrades.
"We look forward to working with strategic partners to realise these important infrastructure projects," he said in the annual report.
The Warrnambool redevelopment would see construction of a new emergency department, operating theatres and patient facilities and could cost up to $400 million.
$7.5 million was spent by the last Labor government developing plans for the upgrade through a community consultation committee.
Ms Britnell said when Ms Mikakos was appointed health minister in December last year, one of the first things she did was write to her, urging her to visit Warrnambool's hospital.
"I'm still awaiting an official reply from her but she has told the media she will visit by the end of the year," Ms Britnell said.
"Time is ticking - perhaps the minister is delaying the visit because she knows she isn't going to like what she sees and she knows the Labor Government has done nothing about it for almost six years now.
"This project is long overdue and for almost six years Daniel Andrews and Labor have ignored the pleas of the community to finish the rebuild of our hospital.
"The minister can talk all she likes about funding Labor has provided in the past and its yet to be fulfilled promise of increased nurse to patient ratios, but the fact is the facilities they have to work in are antiquated, inadequate and is making the job of doctors and nurses even harder."
It cost almost $200 million to run the hospital in the year ending June 30, 2019, more than $10 million more than last year.
$5.41 million of revenue was generated by patient and resident fees, with private patients making up $1.78 million of that.
Ms Mikakos said $163.26 million was allocated to the hospital this financial year, $16.63 million more than the previous 12 months.
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