This content relates to a former minister

Doorstop interview about Community Health and Hospitals Program funding

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt’s announcement on agreements with all 8 states and territories for projects under the $1.25 billion Community Health and Hospitals Program.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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It’s an absolute privilege to be here at St Vincent’s Hospital and in particular at the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery.

To be with Toby and Patricia, Angela, brilliant professors such as Peter and Mark, is to see the best of Australian medical technology, combined with care for patients, combined with outcomes.

This little titanium heel is a replica of the exact heel which was developed here to be inserted in the foot of a patient who had had to have surgery to remove what was damaged by cancer.

It’s an Australian invention, it’s real 3D printing coming to the aid of patients, being developed here in Melbourne, developed here in Victoria, developed here in Australia but leading the world.

And it’s about saving lives and protecting lives, it’s also about Australia being at the forefront of a brand new global industry.

So what’s happening here at St Vincent’s is very, very simple. It’s about new technology meeting the needs of patients.

We are focusing with today’s graph on the capacity to replace a damaged kidney or liver for a patient with their own DNA, their own stem cells being grown and then replaced.

That won’t happen overnight but, as sure as day follows night, the developments and the discoveries which the Aikenhead Centre, which our brilliant researchers and scientists are focusing on, will lead to people being able to replace their kidney, their liver, other organs with their own genetic material.

And that’s about hope, it’s about opportunity, it’s about a massive change for patients.

So I am delighted to announce that within five weeks of the election the Australian government has completed agreements with all eight states and territories and, all up, with 65 project agreements for saving lives and protecting lives, $230 million which will go towards the 65 projects with payments made before the 30th of June.

So that’s immediate funds and a government getting on with the job of saving lives and protecting lives and supporting our medical researchers.

Here at St Vincent’s there will be a $30 million medical research injection, $10 million paid immediately.

That’s to help with epilepsy so that a patient with epilepsy will know when they are likely to face a seizure and, in particular, we’ll be able to assist them with new treatments that can help give them independence, protect their lives and ultimately transform their possibility for the future.

Biomedical printing such as this titanium heel and also the capacity to develop stem cell replacements and replenishments.

So Australia and St Vincent’s will lead the world in biomedical research and fabrication. What that means is new treatments, healthier patients and Australia with a new industry right at the global forefront.


So this money for each hospital you’ve mentioned here, is each grant for a specific project with a specific outcome in mind? Or is it just topping up funding the hospitals already receive?


No, these are specific projects under the Community Health and Hospitals Program and they really cover four major areas.

One is, we have chronic disease, two: cancer treatments, three: we have drug and alcohol, and four: we have mental health. In the chronic disease and the cancer space what we see is innovative and pioneering work.

So, this heel is all about Australian innovation but to actually help patients who might have a cancer that’s affecting their bones with the treatment and the recovery, so they can have their future and have their mobility back.


What other projects are exciting you separate to the heel?


Just in this area we have $8 million for Peter MacCallum and that includes a $25 million payment that’s being made immediately and that’s for a world-leading cellular immunotherapy centre.

CAR T therapy is the treatment that can help patients with leukaemia and lymphoma win their battle after everything else has been tried.

It won’t always work, but for a patient with no hope it can give them real hope and real recovery. And I’ve had the privilege of meeting patients or talking with patients who have faced life-threatening conditions, patients such as Lauren or Gina, whose conditions have been effectively cured, and Peter Mac will be at the forefront.

Or something as very human as a paediatric colorectal centre for children with catastrophic intestinal and bowel conditions at the Royal Children’s Hospital, which will be supported. Something as simple as supporting the Little Haven Palliative Care Centre or the Blue Hill Cancer Centre in Queensland.


This is only the first round. Have you any idea of the other projects that will receive funding?


Yes, so, this is the first round, it’s $229 million. It’s part of a $1.25 billion program and those funds have all been allocated, and as the agreements are reached for the next round we’ll be announcing and releasing those.

But again, drug and alcohol, mental health, chronic disease but in particular breakthrough innovation in chronic disease, as we’re seeing here, and breakthrough treatments in cancer.

On the mental health side an example is the capacity to provide, for the first time, eating disorder treatment centres for residential rehab around the country, in every state and territory.

Eating disorders can strike anybody but we know they particularly strike women, they particularly strike young women. Not confined to those groups, but this will offer them a pathway back when previously it’s been such a hard condition to address.


The $1.25 billion, how long is that for? How many years will that take to roll out?


Well it starts immediately with $230 million paid immediately. The $1.25 billion is additional supplementary funding over the course of between five and seven years depending on the project. Some of them will be one-off, some of them will be paid with milestone payments.


And what about drug and alcohol? What about that sector? What do you have in mind there?


So, in particular with drug and alcohol an example would be The Esther Foundation in Western Australia, a payment of $4 million.

This is for a rehabilitation centre for young women, many of whom have been abused, many of whom have suffered drug and alcohol conditions.

I’ve had the privilege with Ken Wyatt of visiting The Esther Foundation and you can see the recovery of young women, girls in their teens who said that they had no hope and no prospect, being given a stable place, being given a framework and values and being brought back into the world where each of them is there voluntarily, but they leave when they have a plan and program and pathway to a new life.


Just back on to where we are today, how proud are you that Victoria is currently leading the research with this iconic (inaudible) medical.


What a privilege to meet and work with amazing, world-leading scientists such as Peter and Mark and the international team that they’ve brought together.

So, the Aikenhead is right at the forefront of the world in biomedical printing, in 3D printing, but above all else in turning this into real benefits for patients.

The ability to walk, the ability to drive without fear of an epileptic seizure and all of the catastrophic consequences that can come with that.

Or the ability over time to re-grow a damaged kidney or liver. And that’s humanity, that’s hope and that’s an incredible economic opportunity for Melbourne and Victoria and Australia.

Thank you very much.


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