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Ash Bolt

The Geelong region has received a significant health boost in the state budget, with the government committing more than $ 500 million to deliver the Barwon Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the new hospital would provide much-needed care for young families as the region’s population continued to grow.

Subject to stakeholder engagement and detailed design work, the hospital will feature new pediatric and maternity capacity, operating theaters, special care, and women’s outpatient services.

The state government had previously committed $ 100 million to building the women’s and children’s hospital prior to the 2018 election, while the federal government committed $ 50 million in 2019.

Of that, $ 3.6 million had already been allocated to planning and design, with the Victorian Health Building Authority and Barwon Health working to ensure the facility met the community’s needs.

The two stage project will initially see existing facilities at Barwon Health upgraded to provide short term services and co-locate a number of ambulatory women’s and children’s services.

The second stage would then see a new purpose-built comprehensive women’s and children’s facility that will be integrated into the existing Geelong University Hospital.

A new tower block will be built and the Bellarine Center refurbished, while the project will also include a new children’s inpatient unit, new neonatal and parent care unit, specialist (outpatient) clinics, four new operating theaters, and a new main entrance to University Geelong Hospital.

Barwon Health chief executive Frances Diver welcomed the budget commitment.

“It is an exciting time for our staff and the Broader Geelong community as we begin the largest infrastructure project in Barwon Health’s history,” she said.

“Barwon Women’s and Children will support the delivery of integrated healthcare that is family friendly, culturally safe, best practice, safe, high-quality, and accessible.

“This facility will enable Barwon Health to meet growing demands and the changing needs and expectations of the G21 and Barwon South West communities.

“The Women’s and Children’s project will support the modernization of University Hospital Geelong facilities to meet the needs of the community into the future, and marks a huge leap forward in the future of healthcare in our region.

“This project complements the other infrastructure initiatives underway to increase access to surgery and provide more comprehensive services, including mental health, the early parenting center and Torquay Community Hospital.”

South Barwon MP Darren Cheeseman said the expanded project would ensure Barwon Health could support more mothers, babies and children to receive the best care close to home.

“This budget looks out for the health of every single Victorian. By fully funding stage one and two of the Barwon Women’s and Children’s Hospital redevelopment we’re investing in the world-class care people in the Geelong region deserve, ”he said.

Mr Cheeseman said the budget also delivered better cancer care for patients in Geelong with a new radiotherapy linear accelerator for Barwon Health through an $ 11 million commitment.

He said there was also $ 9 million in funding for regional women’s health services and a further $ 11.5 million to deliver group parenting sessions to support families with children struggling with their mental health.

Mr Cheeseman said as a whole the budget would invest over $ 12 billion to improve healthcare, with a Pandemic Repair Plan for more staff, better hospitals and first-class care.

The funding will include a commitment to train and hire up to 7000 new healthcare workers, including 5000 nurses.

There’s also a $ 333 million commitment to hire up to 400 more staff to increase Triple Zero call taking and dispatch capacity, as well as 90 extra paramedics.

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