Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards and Bendigo Health chairman Bob Cameron. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN

BENDIGO Health will get a $34m increase in its operating budget this year, enough for it to increase capacity at the new hospital by 6 per cent, according to chairman Bob Cameron.

Mr Cameron said an additional eight beds had been opened in the new hospital in anticipation of the winter season.

Demand for treatment at the new hospital, which had increased by 40 per cent over the past five years, could be seasonal, he said.

“Last year in Victoria with the flu season, we saw hospital’s capacity arrangements change,” Mr Cameron said.

But hospitals were limited to treating the number of patients their budget allowed.

This year, that sum is $320.5m, an increase of 12 per cent and higher than Victoria’s health budget increase of 10 per cent.

“It is more people essentially,” Mr Cameron said, referring to the reason behind the increase.

The newly constructed hospital took on an additional 220 staff when it opened last January and forecast at the time it would add 1000 jobs within five years.

The increase in demand and capacity for treatment in Bendigo, however, has not lowered demand at smaller surrounding hospitals, according to Mr Cameron and Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards.

It has meant fewer regional residents travel to Melbourne for operations and medical treatment.

“The difference we are seeing is that if people have to have operations elsewhere, more of those people want to come to Bendigo,” Mr Cameron said.

“If you are living in Kerang or Swan Hill, it is much better to come to Bendigo rather than go to Melbourne.

“We did 15,000 operations last year, that was 1500 more than the year before.

“There are more births, more operations, more ambulances turning up, a couple of thousand more people coming through the emergency department so they’re the challenges hospitals face.”