Matthew Guy’s Victorian election health pledges top $6 billion amid questions over how they’ll be funded

A suburban hospital in Melbourne’s east will undergo a $400 million upgrade if the Coalition wins November’s state election, but the billions of dollars of promises have raised questions about how Matthew Guy would fund it all.

The revamp of the Maroondah Hospital in Ringwood East, to be announced today, is the latest in a string of pledges from the state opposition, which has put the rebuild of the state’s embattled health system front and center of its election pitch.

Mr Guy said the upgrade would feature a new emergency department and an extra 100 beds.

It was the 14th hospital pledge from the opposition.

The upgraded Maroondah Hospital would also focus heavily on additional training facilities, the opposition said.

the outside of Maroondah hospital.  There is an ambulance parked out front.
Maroondah hospital in Melbourne’s east will get a $400 million revamp if the Coalition wins November’s state election(Supplied: Eastern Health)

“For too long communities across Melbourne’s growing east have struggled to access quality and timely health care — my plan will change that,” Mr Guy said.

The $400 million commitment takes health election promises from the Coalition to more than $6 billion; with more expected, including how the expanded hospitals will be staffed.

The opposition has been critical of the Andrews government for ramping up debt to pay for tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure projects.

Health funding central to the Coalition’s election pitch

On Friday, Mr Guy said the Coalition would not borrow to pay for its promises.

Central to Mr Guy’s plan is to scrap the Premier’s signature Suburban Rail Loop project and redirect the funds into health.

“This November Victorians have a choice. Real solutions to fix the health crisis or a train line from Cheltenham to Box Hill in 13 years’ time,” Mr Guy said.

The project’s eastern section from Cheltenham to Box Hill is estimated to cost $34.5 billion, already the government has allocated $11.8 billion — $9.3 billion of this is held in a contingency fund.

Questions over federal funds restricted to rail project

But very little of that money is accounted for across the next four years of the state budget.

Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said there was just $1.4 billion over the forward estimates for the project.

On top of that money, $2 billion is for early works, which have begun, and the funds cannot be recouped.

Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas also accused the Coalition of having a poor track record on health.

“You simply can’t trust the Liberals with our health system anywhere, but especially in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs where they closed Burwood Hospital and they’ve come out opposing our plan to establish the Blackburn Public Surgical Centre,” she said.

Mr Guy has repeatedly said he will reallocate the $35 billion to pay for his promises, however, the Coalition government would not have access to all of that money.

Some of the project funding comes from the federal government, which has already said that money can only be spent on the rail project.

The remainder of the project will be funded from the private sector and value capture, a form of levy on developments that will benefit from the new route.

Yesterday, Mr Guy said it was unclear from the government exactly how much the project would cost, so it was difficult to know how much money was there.

“Because at this point in time, there’s estimates of $35 [billion], 50, 125, 200 … Is it one stage? Is it two stages, is it three stages?” Mr Guy said.

“So maybe the government can answer some of those questions?”

Some of the funding for the Coalition’s promises come from other sources including requests for federal funding.

When Mr Guy announced in August that the Coalition would scrap the Suburban Rail Loop, Nationals Leader Peter Walsh declared that $8 billion would be spent on regional health upgrades.

Challenged about this at a media conference yesterday, the opposition said the pledge from the Nationals should have said “up to” $8 billion.

In exactly 10 weeks, Victorians will be able to make their choice.

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