LATROBE Regional Hospital has been forced to drop major fundraising activities, including its annual fun run and gala ball, as it continues to wait on the payment of millions of Federal Government dollars ripped from the system months ago.
LRH reports show last year the annual gala ball raised more than $100,000 for the hospital and the fun run, supported by 700 participants, raised a further $30,000.
After State Health Minister David Davis said LRH was now $1.25 million “in the red” with its federal funding and needed the “promised money urgently”, LRH board chair Kellie O’Callaghan said the withdrawal of funding mid way through the financial year had “jeopardised all sorts of community-related activities we would have proceeded with.”
The Federal Government’s initial decision to squeeze $107 million from Victorian hospitals, including $2.2 million from LRH before the end of June this year, was attributed to forecast population growth data the government claimed indicated growth would be less than earlier predicted, affecting hospital funding formulae.
Following intense pressure to reverse the cuts, which had LRH close beds and postpone elective surgeries earlier this year, the Federal Government backtracked on its decision, but repayments to hospitals are now overdue, according to the State Government.
Ms O’Callaghan said in order for the funds to be released, LRH had been forced to provide a revised Statement of Priorities – outlining the adjusted targets it could meet – to the Federal Government.
“The SOP is normally just done annually but we have had to do another one only because of the impact of the cuts… the work we originally agreed to undertake was based on initial funding but then, because of threatened cuts, we had to reduce what we were doing and, even now, we can’t physically catch up,” she said.
“We have already closed the beds, we did that at the time, so even re-activating them now is not going to make up those numbers… if we had to postpone someone’s surgery, well that has already happened… and now we already run at a full surgical load so we don’t have the flexibility to ‘make up’ what we had to do to accommodate (what was needed) when the cuts were made.
“We won’t be able to make a significant dent in what happened.”
Ms O’Callaghan said the hospital’s capacity to raise its own funds, via the gala ball and fun run events, had also been thwarted since “they require a planning stage and at that time we didn’t think we would have the money”.
“We also had staff resign from positions to go to other jobs but we couldn’t fill their positions because we didn’t know we had the funding.
“The impact of not being able to do that creates a time lag for a lot of our planning.”
Despite funds to LRH now outstanding, Ms O’Callaghan said, operationally, it was “business as usual” at the hospital, adding “we don’t know when the money will arrive, but we have full confidence that it will so we will keep going with what we’ve got.”
Meanwhile, despite a Senate enquiry this month finding the calculations relied on by the Federal Government to justify its cuts were “flawed” and not “defendable”, Ms O’Callaghan said she believed LRH still faced a reduction in its revenue next financial year.
“We don’t know how they calculate things but they are still indicating there will be a reduction… we hope to find out as soon as possible since it will be effective from 1 July,” she said.
A spokesperson for Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said the government had “written to all Victorian health services and provided them with draft funding agreements,” adding once those were finalised, funding would follow “a short time later”.