Budget stalemate continues

ANOTHER fruitless meeting between health ministers last week has left Latrobe Regional Hospital with little hope of avoiding ongoing service reductions.

While LRH management said on Friday it had yet to receive formal advice on the outcome of a meeting between State Health Minister David Davis and Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek over hospital funding cuts, the stalemate between both governments has been widely reported.

LRH remains locked in discussions with the Department of Health in an effort to determine how it will implement cost-saving measures in response to a $2.2 million operational budget shortfall imposed on the hospital mid-year by the Federal Government.

The cuts are set to be ongoing and LRH chief executive Peter Craighead said it required a “rebasing of our budget”.

Mr Craighead recently told The Express about 200 people already had elective surgeries delayed at the hospital after it was forced to reduce its surgery activity by half through January.

Two meetings between Mr Davis and Ms Plibersek in recent weeks have seen neither party budge on their positions, both claiming it was the other’s responsibility to address a scenario which one union claimed had resulted in Victoria experiencing its longest elective surgery waiting lists ever.

Health funding reductions from the Federal Government were attributed to Australian Bureau of Statistics population data Ms Plibersek said indicated Victoria had not grown at the rate initial funding allocations were based on.

A spokesperson for Mr Davis told The Express on Friday the minister had written to Ms Plibersek last week claiming it was “clear the Commonwealth Treasurer has used population data differentially” and that its “manipulation of data could not be more serious”.

Mr Davis said the application of that data “calls into question the integrity of federal financial relations”.

In The Age Ms Plibersek was reported as saying she told Mr Davis in last week’s meeting to ask his cabinet for funding from Victoria’s unexpectedly high GST distributions”.

Meanwhile another funding debate has flared between both parties over Federal Government claims Victoria’s overwhelmed emergency departments had missed out on $12 million in federal funding this month due to inadequate paperwork.

Claims the State Government had provided the Federal Government with insufficient data on Victorian hospital’s elective surgery and emergency department activity in 2011-12 were, however, denied by Mr Davis.

In a statement to The Express Mr Davis said the State Government had provided “detailed information on every patient treated in Victorian hospitals, consistent with our agreements to do so”.

“The Victorian Government has fulfilled its reporting commitments, which were approved in the Implementation Plan for the National Partnership Agreement on Improving Hospital Services,” he said.

LRH board chair Kellie O’Callaghan said LRH had provided all of its “data to the department, as per their requirements”.