THE continuing bickering over cuts to health funding is undoubtedly about to hit patient care.
Revelations that hospitals across Victoria are preparing to re-evaluate budgets – in other words assess bed closures and personnel – can only mean patients will be the losers.
Claims the funding cuts from the federal government are based upon population trends is flimsy at best.
Further, there seems little clarity in which level of government is responsible.
The state government says $107 million has been cut directly from hospital coffers. The federal government claims Victoria will receive an additional $1 billion over the next four years.
Given that the federal government’s national health plan was seen as a method of ending the blame game over funding, it has in this aspect been a failure – judging by the recent debate.
The federal government’s explanation that Victoria’s population is dropping, or will drop, comes with little detail. It should provide a complete breakdown of funding methods and allocations and any changes that have been made to the formula.
It should also provide a breakdown of the $1 billion in extra funds it says it will provide to Victorian hospitals.
The debate puts hospitals in a difficult position. Locally, Ballarat Health Services has been careful in explaining the potential impact on its budget.
On the political front, the Liberal Party has used the debate to focus attack on federal member for Ballarat Catherine King, who is also the parliamentary secretary for health.
Victorian Treasurer Kim Wells felt compelled to write to his federal counterpart Tayna Plibersek on Tuesday condemning the federal government for threatening to withhold future funding as punishment for Victoria speaking out.
The spat just won’t wash with those seeking emergency care, or those on surgery waiting lists. It won’t help hospitals provide the level of services the community expects.
In Ballarat, we are blessed with a level of health care that is the envy of other regional centres. That also means that expectations are high.
In these circumstances, it won’t take very long for the community to make its feelings known to those charged with implementing policy – something that should be at the forefront of our politicians’ minds.