Northe strikes back

STATE Member for Morwell Russell Northe has hit back at Opposition claims he is failing the Latrobe Valley on health funding.

Mr Northe used a recent speech in State Parliament to strongly defend his government’s contributions to Latrobe Regional Hospital, turning the tables on State Member for Eastern Region Matt Viney.

Mr Viney had blasted the government over what he said were forecast budget cuts of $134.1 million to the Health Department, in addition to $482 million cut from last year’s budget.

He tied the cuts to recent hospital performance data showing Latrobe Regional Hospital’s waiting list for urgent elective surgeries had risen sharply in the last quarter.

At the time LRH chief executive Peter Craighead clarified that data, stating despite the list being longer than in the previous quarter still none of the patients referred to had waited longer than 30 days for treatment, meaning the hospital had not violated any benchmarks.

Mr Northe told parliament Mr Viney’s comment about LRH were “simply outrageous” and a “kick in the guts for the hard-working staff, health professionals and volunteers at LRH”.

He said claims of funding reductions to LRH were “false” and “suggestions of a significant increase in elective surgery waiting lists, unfounded”.

Mr Northe claimed the State Government had increased funding for LRH in the 2012/2013 period by $7 million, “which is a record in comparison to funding under Mr Viney’s former Labor Government”.

“Indeed Mr Viney and his Federal Labor mates have just announced that $2.2 million will be stripped from LRH as part of an outrageous and dodgy plan that will see $100 million taken away from Victorian Hospitals – despite this Mr Viney and State Labor have remained silent,” Mr Northe said.

“Under Mr Viney’s watch in 2007/2008 there were 1590 people on the elective surgery waiting list whilst this figure under a Coalition Government has reduced to 1086 in the period 2011/2012.

“In addition Latrobe Regional Hospital in the period 2011/2012 admitted 4569 elective surgery patients while the figure in 2007/2008 was 4315.

“It’s about time Mr Viney supported Latrobe Regional Hospital and praised the work of staff rather than his ongoing unfounded criticism,” he said.

In response Mr Viney released a series of letters between State Health Minister David Davis and Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek which he said indicated Victoria’s share of federal health funding was growing every year and amounted to $3.61 billion in 2012-2013 and would rise by 26 percent to 2015-16.

Mr Viney said Ms Plibersek had also written to local health services to “correct the record” and included budget extracts in her correspondence.

The minister was responding to concerns raised by Mr Davis the Federal Government’s decision to “revise down” National Health Reform fundings would effectively reduce the 2012-13 state health budget by $67 million at a time when it had already finalised its budgets.

Mr Viney’s release of several letters between both ministers indicates the debate between both governments over where, how – and even if – funding cuts have occurred remains unresolved.