Lack of funding puts plans to move Bendigo Health services on hold

Plans to move Bendigo Health dental, rehabilitation and some administration services from the old cream brick towers on Barnard Street to the former hospital site remain on hold, pending state government funding.

Bendigo Health planned to remove services from the towers to a new day rehabilitation centre at the old hospital site, and demolish the towers as part of the city’s new hospital project, but there is no indication of funding any time soon.

The east wing of the towers was built in 1958 with the north wing following in 1972. In 2012, the buildings were deemed non-compliant after failing to meet fire-safety standards.

Bendigo Health said at the time the buildings were not dangerous and the organisation had ensured the towers were safe. The organisation has since undertaken extensive planning.

“(The process) has developed plans to decant services from the two towers into buildings on the old hospital site in order to establish a Bendigo Health Day Rehabilitation Centre,” a Bendigo Health spokesperson said. “This would then vacate the towers and enable demolition.” Those plans are dependent on state government funding.

Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said she would push for further funding for the Bendigo hospital project.

“I’m proud to have helped deliver a world-class hospital for our city and I will continue to fight for more funding to ensure people in Bendigo and beyond can access the very best care when they need it, close to home,” she said. 

Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said she felt the plans were important to the Bendigo Health organisation.

“I am very supportive of this and will be is pushing for funding,” she said. “I had a meeting with the Minister for Health last week and this was one of the topics I brought up.”

Minister for Health Jill Hennessy said future funding would be subject to budget considerations.

“We are working with Bendigo Health on possible options for the future of the towers,” she said.

“Our priority has been ensuring a seamless transition for patients and staff at the flagship new Bendigo Hospital and getting on with delivering stage two of the project, which is well underway.

“The $630 million new state of the art Bendigo Hospital means local patients now have access to the world’s best healthcare, close to home and when they need it.”

Ms Hennessy said there were currently no plans for a “stage 3” development of the Bendigo hospital.

A parliamentary committee inquiry report into the state’s infrastructure projects from May, 2017, flagged Bendigo Health’s proposed works that included moving current rehabilitation services.

The two buildings (centre) at Bendigo Health's Anne Caudle Centre that are unable to meet building regulations when it comes to fire safety. Picture: SUPPLIED

The two buildings (centre) at Bendigo Health's Anne Caudle Centre that are unable to meet building regulations when it comes to fire safety. Picture: SUPPLIED

"The infrastructure plan and the retained buildings plan ... seeks to move all of those remaining services back across the road to the vacated Bendigo Health site, the Bendigo Hospital site, and demolish the current buildings," it reads.

"It will be a sensational plan. … but it is probably around a $50 million solution, so it is challenging in the current economic climate."

But a February report from the inquiry into the Victorian government infrastructure projects states the committee was informed by the Department of Health and Human Services that "there is no planned future Stage 3 for the project".

The proposal was lacking funding with Bendigo Health initiating discussion with DHHS and the federal government in an effort to gain support.

In evidence to the parliamentary committee, Bendigo Health CEO Peter Faulkner said “at this point there has not been huge interest” in the proposed plans.