GetUp petition ‘unfair to community’

The chair of Latrobe Regional Hospital’s board has slammed a petition campaign launched by community advocacy organisation GetUp, saying its emotive content risks eroding community confidence in health services across the region.

As part of a nationwide GetUp campaign which claims the coalition has cut $57 billion from hospital funding since elected in 2013, a petition claims LRH stands to lose up to $326.2 million in federal funding over the next decade.

GetUp spokeswoman Natalie O’Brien said the data was based on pre-budget figures and the funding announced in the recent budget was a “$2.9 billion bandaid to a $57 billion problem”, and would make little difference to its numbers.

In a document detailing its methodology at reaching the figures it has calculated for hospitals across the country, GetUp stated they were the outcome of “assumptions” based on a hospital’s size relative to all other hospitals in the state and may not represent the actual amount of funding a hospital would lose.

“These assumptions were necessary because of the lack of publically [sic] available data about how hospital funding is allocated,” the document stated.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester labelled GetUp’s push a “scare campaign”, saying the 2016 budget showed the Coalition would increase spending on health and hospitals.

LRH board chair Kellie O’Callaghan said while she appreciated the community’s support for ensuring hospitals were properly funded, she did not want LRH to be entangled in a political debate “which is short on factual evidence”.

“GetUp admits its figures are based on guesswork and assumptions,” Ms O’Callaghan said.

“Unfortunately when it comes to the delivery of health services which save lives, assumptions are simply not good enough.”

LRH is yet to receive formal notification of its 2016/17 budget allocation, but is hopeful of a positive financial outlook in the wake of the State Government’s commitment to increase health spending.

The ‘Save our Latrobe Regional Hospital’ petition claims federal cuts could mean fewer doctors, nurses, or beds, and longer emergency room and elective surgery waiting times.

“I think it is unfair to our community to suggest the care we provide to them is potentially at risk,” Ms O’Callaghan said.

“It is unfair to every person with a serious illness who is now wondering whether local hospitals will be able to treat them. They don’t deserve to be treated this way.”

Ms O’Callaghan said at no time had GetUp made an attempt to contact LRH to discuss its concerns or the figures.

“As a public health service, LRH is respectful of the political process and is committed to working with the government of the day, either state or federal, to ensure we’re able to deliver quality services for our community.”

Mr Chester said there had been no cuts to hospital funding by the Commonwealth and spending woulcontinue to increase year-on-year.

“The Australian Government is spending $17.9 billion on hospitals in 2016/17. This is a 4.2 per cent increase on the previous financial year. And it is a 29.4 (per cent) increase on the amount spent on hospitals in 2013/14,” Mr Chester said. He said the budget showed Victorian spending would increase by 21 per cent between 2015 and 2020.

“It is disappointing some people are trying to trick local residents into believing there have been cuts to federal hospital funding, when funding has actually increased and will continue to increase,” Mr Chester said.