Surgery cuts feared

CENTRAL Gippsland Health Service will be watching closely for confirmation that Commonwealth Government health funding will be reduced, possibly as soon as today.

About two months ago the state government was informed its share of Commonwealth health funding under an agreement signed last year would not be as large as previously expected because new population data from the recent census showed Victoria’s population was not growing as fast as predicted.

If pleas to the Prime Minister from the chairs of Victoria’s health service boards to delay the $107 million reduction in funding to the end of the financial year are not successful CGHS may face a reduction of $646,000.

Health service board chair John Sullivan said the management and staff were already making provision for any cuts, which would impact on surgery.

“Our hope, of course, is that cuts do not occur, but if they do we will need to be ready to meet that change of circumstances,” Mr Sullivan said.

“In the meantime, we and other hospitals will be seeking urgent clarification on the proposed cuts as such cuts would impact on our surgical capacity.” Under a proposed decrease in Commonwealth funding, CGHS would lose about $92,000 per month between December 2012 and June 2013, a total of $646,000.

The impact would be that up to 200 patients would miss out on elective surgery between January and June 2013, with four beds in the surgical ward closed for the same period of time.

Mr Sullivan said the uncertainty over funding was very unsettling.

“Clearly we have made plans for the amount of work that needs to be done in this area over the rest of this financial year and if cuts go ahead, many local people will be disadvantaged and our staff will need to re-organise large amounts of surgery,” he said.

“We do not want to dismay local people but the reality is that if these cuts from the Commonwealth go ahead, we will have difficulty with our surgical list in the months ahead. We will let our community know of our exact circumstances as soon as possible.”

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester said a total of $3.68 million would be removed from Gippsland health services as part of the proposed $1.6 billion funding cut across the nation.

However Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said Commonwealth funding to Victoria was growing in real terms, just not as fast as the Victorian government would like. She blamed the impact on health services on State Health Minister David Davis, saying he was reducing the state’s contribution.

For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.