Hospital funding cuts now hit the elderly

PATIENTS in Ballarat continue to lose out as federal and state politicians flatly refuse to take responsibility for health funding cuts which has now hastened the closure of a day aged care centre.

Ballarat Health Services has had its budget slashed by $2.8 million this financial year, forcing the closure of eight beds at Ballarat Base Hospital and now the Ethel Lowe Day Centre in Sebastopol.

Multiple centre users contacted The Courier this week concerned about the closure of the facility. 

And the political debate reached absurd proportions yesterday.

Ballarat MP Catherine King, federal parliamentary secretary for health and ageing, denied responsibility, despite clear changes in distributions to Victoria.

Victorian health minister David Davis said the state government also took no responsibility. State Liberal MP Simon Ramsay yesterday claimed Ms King was fully aware of the federal government’s role in cutting funding.

BHS has not replaced 25 staff members who resigned since the cuts were announced in November. BHS chief executive officer Andrew Rowe said the cuts would have a range of consequences.

“The cut was advised five months into the financial year so that leaves seven months to achieve the budget reduction. That works out at $400,000 per month,” he said.

“We have been endeavouring to meet (the very substantial increase in) demand as well as reduce the elective surgery waiting list.”

BHS will close the Ethel Lowe Day Centre from March 28, providing activities and services for the elderly and disabled.

Mr Rowe said there had been “a very significant reduction in demand” for the facility.

Ballarat MP Catherine King said the state government had made a deliberate choice to run a political campaign around health funding.

“So every decision to close beds, to cut services is a decision that is being made because of the choice of the state government.”she said.

State health minister Mr Davis, when asked whether the state government took any responsibility for the hospital funding cuts, said “no”. “Because we haven’t cut hospital funding, we’ve increased it.”