$2.8 million slashed from Ballarat Base Hospital's budget, eight beds close

EIGHT beds are being lost from the Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital in a move to save money after having $2.8 million slashed from its budget. 

An email was distributed to hospital staff on Thursday outlining the bed closures as being among measures that will be used to save money.

BHS chief executive officer Andrew Rowe said the executive team at BHS had worked hard on a strategy to accommodate the downsized budget.

“When the cut was imposed on us in November, we were only given seven months notice before the end of the financial year to implement the cuts,” Mr Rowe said.

Two beds have already been closed, with another six to be closed over the coming weeks. 

“It’s not our preference to close beds, but when you consider the size of the cut it was just something we had to do,” he said. 

“In terms of total bed numbers at the hospital, it is a very small reduction, where we hope it will have a small impact.

“The difficulty will come later in the winter months, when more beds are required with flu season.”

The BHS executive team will re-assess whether to re-open beds next financial year. 

“With the organisation growing and increasing surpluses, we would like to re-open beds,” Mr Rowe said.

“But it is dependant on the budget we are allocated.” 

“The reality is any patient who comes into the hospital in urgent need of treatment will always get a bed.”

Mr Rowe said some of the cost-saving initiatives alongside the closure of beds  would include the non-replacement of staff and a reduction in annual leave entitlements.

Other initiatives include changes to the cars in the motor vehicle pool, and overtime entitlements. 

Since the announcement where the federal government implemented a new formula for calculating hospital funding through population data, 25 staff have not been replaced after resigning.

Australian Medical Association Victoria president and emergency physician Dr Stephen Parnis said funding cuts implemented in Ballarat were being replicated all over the state.

“Clinically this is immediate and dramatic. It will mean increased delays for patients and in turn put patient’s health at further risk,” Dr Parnis said. 

“I would rather an empty desk than have an empty bed. 

“The AMA is angry about the blame game that the state and federal governments are playing.

“It’s wreaking havoc on clinical services.”

Dr Parnis said he was sceptical about whether the health services would recover from these funding cuts.

“This is not good news at all,” Dr Parnis said.

“It is dependant on the state and federal governments working together and that’s not happening right now.”

nicole.cairns@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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