Hamilton health care CEO slams federal government funding cuts

THE head of the leading health care service in Hamilton has hit out at federal government cuts, describing the claw back of funds as “soul destroying”. 

Western District Health Service (WDHS) has had more than $430,000 ripped from its annual budget, as management scrambles to find ways to plug the funding gap. 

Chief executive officer Jim Fletcher said he was stunned by the federal government decision to remove $106.7 million from the Victorian healthcare system during the middle of a financial year. 

“The imposition of a mid-year budget cut is unprecedented — I cannot ever recall this situation ever occurring during my long career in the health system,” Mr Fletcher said. 

“While Western District Health Service would do everything possible to minimise impact on services and programs, some impact was inevitable given the magnitude of the task.” 

He said there was little chance of a reversal on the decision by Health Minister Tanya Plibersek. 

The hospital chief said WDHS and other health services were now hoping the state government would move to fill the gap left by Canberra. 

“Whether the Victorian Department of Health will agree to any adjustment of targets without the health service incurring a financial penalty is yet to be discussed,” he said. 

Around $2.7 million has been taken from hospitals across the south-west.

Crisis meetings have also been held at South West Healthcare, which was dealt a $1.4 million blow. 

The move has been attacked by the state government and federal opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton who toured the region yesterday. 

But the federal government has hit back accusing Premier Ted Baillieu of making the deepest cuts. 

“These claims are part of a desperate attempt by the Baillieu government to divert attention from the $616 million in cuts it has made to its own health system,” Ms Plibersek said. 

“Elective surgery waiting lists are blowing out and the new hospital beds (health minister) David Davis promised have not been delivered.”

Mr Fletcher said there was no end in sight to the blame game between Spring Street and Canberra. 

“If this is an example of what we can expect the relationship will be worse than ever,” he said. 

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