By Mitchell Clarke
The long-awaited Pakenham Community Hospital is a step closer to being delivered, after the project received a funding boost in the Victorian 2020-21 budget.
More than $66 million has been set aside to purchase the land of 10 community hospitals, including Pakenham, and continue the planning and design of each location.
While an official local site is yet to be decided on, the Gazette understands two sites have been identified and are being considered by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
One potential site could see the existing health hub on Henty Way expanded to include the new facility. The old Woolworths site on Main Street, Pakenham has also been flagged.
According to a Cardinia Shire Council document obtained by the Gazette in late September, DHHS had indicated a strong interest in the latter site, labelling it a “highly attractive” option.
But there’s been no official word from the State Government, who maintain that a site is yet to be landed on, but “quite a number of options” had been actively assessment in the last 18 months.
Bass MP Jordan Crugnale said the recent funding to acquire the land made the project suddenly feel “very real”.
“This is a big one step closer moment and I can’t wait to bring our amazing committee made up of local people together again so we can all talk about the project, planning and continue to workshop design ideas as well,” she said.
“They are such an active group and bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences from all walks of life – this is a community hospital and it needs to provide services that are needed by the community now and into the future.”
Community hospitals are small public hospitals that have extended opening hours and can provide a range of ‘everyday’ health services for people who are not critically unwell.
Services may include after-hours urgent care for minor injuries and illnesses, day procedures such as minor surgical procedures, chemotherapy and dialysis, and community-based care including mental health, paediatrics, dental, family health and chronic disease management.
“The Pakenham Community Hospital will be such a valuable and accessible health, wellbeing and support service for the entire community across every age group in Cardinia Shire,” Ms Crugnale said.
“We want people to be well, to stay well and to have care close to where they live. That’s why we committed to building 10 across the state.”
The community hospitals will also provide some relief to Casey Hospital and St John of God Hospital in Berwick.
“I think many of us have been to an emergency department for something that could have been treated at what will be a community hospital – I know I have,” Ms Crugnale added.
“The Andrews Government is delivering the largest pipeline of health projects in Victoria’s history, so Victorians can access health care and services when and where they need them.”
Once complete, community hospitals will be able to treat at least 114,000 urgent care patients, provide 55,000 dialysis treatments and will enable delivery of more than 100,000 extra allied health sessions each year.
A new community hospital will also be built in Cranbourne and an existing service in Phillip Island will be expanded.
The Pakenham site will be managed by Monash Health, who said the development would be “important” for the area.
Construction of the Pakenham Community Hospital will commence in 2022 and be completed in 2024.