FORMER Victorian Premier Steve Bracks will lead community consultations to help shape a major emergency department overhaul in his hometown.
Works on the $541.6 million Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital redevelopment are set to start next year. Buninyong MP Michaela Settle and Wendouree MP Juliana Addison confirmed on Thursday the project will now include a new $80 million central energy plant, delivered under last week's state budget.
Base Hospital upgrades will feature a multi-level tower with a new emergency department, a new women's and children's hub, state-of-the-art theatre suite and an extra 100 inpatient and short-stay beds. The critical care floor will also be upgraded and expanded.
When finished, the hospital will be equipped to treat at least 18,000 more emergency patients per year and deliver an extra 4000 per year.
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Mr Bracks will oversee a community committee to help ensure the redevelopment is as accessible as possible to modern health needs.
For self-confessed emergency department "frequent flyer" Sharon Eacott, the chance for community to have a say was invaluable.
Ms Eacott moved to Ballarat six years ago, from Canberra, and often needs urgent medical attention for her multiple auto-immune conditions.
"I used the ED significantly with great reluctance - I feel it's for people dying and hopefully that's not me," Ms Eacott said. "My experience here is wonderful but there is always room to improve...Anyone who enters this building always has a level of distress and anything that can calm that is important."
Ms Eacott said space was an important factor. BHS has confirmed its ED is running at full capacity in a fast growing region.
In her experience, Ms Eacott said sometimes hearing the distress and pain of others a couple of beds away could make it a tough environment for staff and other patients.
She has also long been an outspoken community advocate for the hospital in accessibility needs and the seemingly simple, but often overlooked, issues to getting around.
"I encourage others, if you see a solution and know what it is, then present it," Ms Eacott said. "I could let MS (multiple sclerosis) beat me or I could use it to make it easier for the next person in the world to deal with it. You can make a difference and then this becomes your hospital."
BHS deputy emergency department clinical director Mark Hartnell said the hospital's ED was world class when first built but had likely reached its limit in best care. Dr Hartnell said this was a chance to start afresh to modern and future community needs.
He said about one-quarter of ED patients were children and mental health presentations were rising so, involving patients like Ms Eacott, could help ensure the best staff and patient environment were created in a new emergency department.
Community members wanting to join the consultative committee can apply via the Victorian Health and Human Services Building Authority: vhhsba.vic.gov.au/ballarat-base-hospital.
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