ON Wednesday in the Victorian parliament, Member for Mildura, Ali Cupper asked the Minister for Heath Martin Foley whether he would call on the Federal Government to support the investment needed to create an Academic Health Precinct in Mildura.

Mr Foley said that he most certainly will, “because this will only work if all levels of government step up and play their part”.

“Particularly when it comes to post-school education, this current Federal Government has some ground to make up,” he said.

“Whether it has been the increase in HECS fees, whether it has been the slashing of university investments, particularly in these areas of health, increasing costs and reducing opportunities is not the way to go to make the kind of vision that the honourable member for Mildura outlines a reality.”

In her questions to the Minister, Ms Cupper outlined the vision the Mildura Base Public Hospital has for the Precinct which will form part of the mater plan currently being developed.

“The master planning process for a new Mildura Base Public Hospital is advancing well, but we are determined to avoid the mistakes of the past, where a disastrous private contract delivered a short-sighted facility that was unable to adapt to evolving community needs,” Ms Cupper said.

“This is why CEO Terry Welch and local university partners are advocating for an Academic Health Precinct to be integrated within a new hospital to help grow and retain our healthcare workforce.

“The Precinct would provide high-quality hospital-based learning experiences, facilitate collaboration on medical research and create academic pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians into the health disciplines.

“This is a model that has been successfully implemented in other regional and remote cities like Shepparton and Broken Hill. Does the minister support the concept of an academic health precinct at Mildura Base Public Hospital?”

Mr Foley responded saying that he has been “lucky enough to be part of conversations with both La Trobe University and Monash University and with the Mildura hospital leadership around what this very concept looks like in Mildura and the northern Mallee − and indeed into New South Wales − and what that investment might look like.”

“I look forward to that next step of the process, taking into account precisely the kinds of issues that the honourable member has raised, because you cannot deliver, whether it is in the regions or in the inner city or anywhere in between, a world-class healthcare system in world-class buildings and facilities without world-class staff.

“That needs a partnership between all levels of community and all levels of − be it state, federal or in this case local government − and the wider regions so in those kinds of specialist areas the honourable member talks about she can have confidence that her community is right up there at the top of the list in the thinking about what specialist areas in regional, rural and remote health and Indigenous health look like.

“I look forward to working with the honourable member on this exciting project.”