Thank you for your welcome.
I am very pleased to be here today to represent the Australian Minister for Health, Peter Dutton.
Unfortunately the Minister could not attend in person, but he asked me to congratulate the Red Cross and everyone involved in this project on this important day.
The Cairns Health and Wellness Stay Centre or Pat Gosper Place is a great example of two sectors working together to improve health services and, in turn, the health and wellbeing of many Australians especially those who live in rural or remote parts of far north Queensland.
The Red Cross had the plan and with some financial assistance from the Commonwealth, they’ve turned that idea into reality.
This new building is, of course, on the same site where the Red Cross has provided medical accommodation for more than 50 years. But the opening of this centre today represents a significant departure from the original concept.
This new four-story centre, as the title suggests, is more than just a place to stay.
It can accommodate up to 44 patients at a time. But all of the rooms are double bedrooms, which means that a family member can stay too if need be.
There are also reception areas, and meeting or training rooms.
This health and wellness centre follows the very successful model established by the Red Cross Wellbeing Centre in Townsville.
For more than 10 years, the Townsville centre has provided a unique, low cost place to stay for people needing medical attention, and their families.
In fact, nearly 30,000 people have benefitted from the Townsville accommodation.
Like the Townsville centre, the Cairns Health and Wellness Stay Centre will provide quality accommodation and a caring, supportive environment.
Most of the people who will stay here will come from rural and remote regions, including Cape York.
A lot of them will be from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and they will find their culture respected too.
Others may have come up to tropical north Queensland on holiday and been struck down by an accident or illness that forces them to stay in hospital for a long treatment period.
Many would otherwise have nowhere to stay, or face large bills.
But here, even for extended stays, guests will pay no accommodation costs if they are eligible for Queensland Health’s Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme.
As its title suggests, the centre is designed to promote health and wellbeing.
It is not just a bed for the night. It is a place to find calm, comfort and recovery for body and spirit.
Rather than a hostel, it will be a home away from home.
Even with the best intentions, that is not possible in the clinical spaces of a hospital.
Guests will be able to get a range of holistic health services on site and through referral, in partnership with local organisations.
This really is a positive example of the government helping a non-government organisation to kick goals for the health of Australian people.
With a total project cost of $6.9 million, the Australian Government contributed $1.9 million and the remaining $5 million was provided by the Red Cross.
Although the funding was approved by the previous Government, the current Minister, Peter Dutton, and I are pleased to support this project.
At another level, this is a very positive example of a new approach to health and hospital care.
Patients should be able to receive care in the most appropriate setting, and hospitals vital as they are are not the best place to stay for extended periods.
This centre is not only a much better option for patients with longer term care or recovery needs, it frees up hospital beds for those patients who only need short-term acute care.
That is a win-win all round.
Before I go, I would like to again acknowledge Pat Gosper after whom the centre is named.
Pat has been a very active Australian Red Cross worker in Far North Queensland since the 1950s.
You must have seen a lot of change in our local community and far north Queensland over that time, Pat.
This centre, which is so appropriately named after you, also represents a new change, which I’m sure will be very much a change for the better.
On behalf of the Minister for Health, Peter Dutton, I congratulate Pat Gosper and Red Cross Queensland on the completion of this very worthwhile project.