Sick Ballarat children will benefit from a historic expansion of the Royal Children's Hospital Good Friday Appeal which has partnered with five regional pediatric health services including Grampians Health.
The Good Friday Appeal will fund $2.5m of equipment and programs across the regional services to enhance pediatric care and help reduce the need for patients and parents to travel to the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.
Grampians Health chief executive Dale Fraser said the appeal would fund three pieces of equipment in Ballarat - a specialised anaesthetic machine, dedicated ultrasound for women and children's services, and replaced or upgraded resuscitation cots for the sickest babies in the hospital.
"This year the Good Friday Appeal has seen fit to share to regional health services to ensure mums, dads and kids from regional Victoria get to benefit from the generosity of Victorians who give money each year to the Good Friday Appeal," said Grampians Health chief executive Dale Fraser.
"In our case the equipment will mean greater and more serious clinical care can be done without the need for children to be sent down to Melbourne."
"Rural Victoria has a massive role to play in providing pediatric care. Each and every regional health service offers thousands of episodes of care to kids each year and we are very grateful for this partnership which gives us more capacity so kids can stay ... closer to home."
Alfredton toddler Ollie Robertson and his parents Melanie and Peter are frequent visitors to the Royal Children's Hospital where Ollie receives treatment for cystic fibrosis.
Last year alone he had four "tune up" admissions, which usually run about 14 days, for extra medication and physiotherapy to help clear the mucus and bacteria growing in his lungs, and to help with weight gain. There were also multiple overnight admissions.
Ms Robertson welcomed the funding announcement, for which Ollie was the Grampians Health ambassador.
"I think it's fantastic. It's going to help so many regional families, especially families like us who need to travel to the Royal Children's Hospital every two to three months," she said.
The hospital stays are not just disruptive for Ollie and his parents, but with three older children as well it's a difficult juggle.
It is the first time in the Good Friday Appeal's history that funds raised have been shared to other health services to support training, scholarships and state-of-the-art equipment. It is also part of a Royal Children's Hospital goal to create a truly integrated pediatric service system where health services learn from each other and share expertise and knowledge.
Mr Fraser said the grant was "transformative".
Each year more than 1000 children have surgery at Grampians Health and Mr Fraser said the specialist anaesthetic machine would ensure "our smallest patients have the best possible anaesthetic care".
Two new maternal ultrasound machines will help doctors better identify and treat high-risk pregnancies.
Resuscitation cots, used for the sickest babies, allow pediatricians to provide intensive care for newborns literally moments after birth in a 'one stop shop' that allows babies to be transferred and treated without being moved from the cot.
Grampians Health is one of five regional pediatric centres to share in funding from the Good Friday Appeal, including Bendigo Health, Barwon Health in Geelong, Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton and Latrobe Regional Health in Traralgon.
Since 1931, the Good Friday Appeal has raised more than $444 million thanks to the generous support of fundraising partners and the community.
Last year, regional communities contributed $4,598,340 to the 2023 appeal total of $23,061,320.
"We are grateful to the 206 area managers who generously lead and coordinate all fundraising activities in regional areas, many who are from the CFA, as well as the large number of regional businesses and organisations, families and individuals who get involved across the state and beyond. We are thrilled to be providing this important funding to help regional hospitals and the Royal Children's Hospital to achieve their goals of improving health outcomes for sick kids and their families all over Victoria" said Good Friday Appeal executive director Rebecca Cowan.
Donations can be made online anytime to the Good Friday Appeal at goodfridayappeal.com.au