Blowout ‘inevitable’

A BLOWOUT in Latrobe Regional Hospital’s elective surgery waiting lists over coming months is inevitable in the face of a $2.2 million revenue cut from the Federal Government.

That was the warning from LRH board chair Kellie O’Callaghan, backed by State Health Minister David Davis, last week as the local impact of revised federal funding figures for the remainder of this financial year was being digested.

Referring to the Federal Government’s decision to “revise down” National Health Reform funds, based on population figures showing an apparent decline in Victoria, Mr Davis said the move would reduce the state health budget by $67 million at a time when hospitals had already finalised their budgets for the year.

Ms O’Callaghan was scathing of the federal decision, telling The Express “despite the Federal Government’s information saying there has been a reduction in population figures, that is not the case – we are getting an increased demand, with an ageing population and we know the health priorities for this region are significant because we have poor health outcomes”.

“We know, on the ground, what is happening… and the most important message is that the (state) minister is here, talking to our patients, seeing the services and seeing where the reductions are (going to be) but where is the Federal Government?”

Mr Davis accused the Federal Government of “mixing two sequences of figures in a way that’s not statistically valid, to be fair, and is at odds with the Commonwealth statistician, the ABS”.

“They (the Australian Bureau of Statistics) have said the (Victorian) population has grown by 75,000, but the Federal Government argues it has fallen by 11,000,” Mr Davis said, adding “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist, moving around the state” to see there had been “huge growth”, including in Gippsland.

In response to the cuts LRH would be forced to “work out what we do with our elective lists”, Ms O’Callaghan said.

“We need to look at our core services, our non-clinical areas of service delivery… and look at where we cut back.

“We can’t continue to deliver the services we are providing at this point with a reduction of $2.2 million in the next 12 months.

“The most frustrating element of all of this with the Federal Government is that it is all about numbers and we are talking about patients and local communities…they are just moving numbers and it doesn’t work that way (for us).”

Mr Davis said six state premiers had lobbied the Federal Government over the issue, to no avail.

In response to claims by State Member for Eastern Victoria Matt Viney the State Government had forecast budget cuts of more than $134 million from the state health department, Mr Davis insisted state funding to LRH had increased this year – a claim backed by Ms O’Callaghan.

Mr Viney has defended the Federal Government, saying Victoria’s share of federal health funding was growing every year and amounted to $3.61 billion in 2012-2013.