QUESTIONS are being asked over the finances of Colac Area Health (CAH) following revelations the service lost more than $1 million last year and was classed as at-risk by the auditor general’s report.
The claims made by Opposition Parliamentary Secretary for Health Wade Noonan come after CAH made the controversial decision to close the doors on its overnight urgent care unit because of federal health cuts.
A report by the Victorian Auditor General last year placed the hospital service in an at-risk category for insufficient revenue.
Last year CAH lost $250,000 from its budget from federal health cuts, leading to the closure of the urgent care unit to cover costs.
Unions representing paramedics and nurses have issued a blunt warning that the transfer of patients to Geelong would place lives at risk if Colac was left without an ambulance for three hours.
Mr Noonan said member for Polwarth Terry Mulder needed to have a closer look at the books of CAH, which he said had recorded losses of $1.7 million over the past two years.
“Mr Mulder needs to accept that the most recent $1 million loss recorded by Colac health is the real reason they can’t keep the emergency department open overnight,” Mr Noonan said.
“It’s very clear that Colac Area Health have been under stress for some time.”
Mr Noonan also claimed CAH had increased executive salaries over the past year by $255,000.
“That’s the same as the figure that triggered the closure of the urgent care overnight,” Mr Noonan said.
Colac Area Health did not return The Standard’s calls yesterday.
Victorian Greens Senator Richard Di Natale, of Deans Marsh near Colac, added his voice to concerns this week saying it was unacceptable for people with serious health concerns to be without an ambulance for potentially long hours.
“I think it is shameful that we have got state and federal health ministers blaming each other for the problem,” Mr Di Natale said.
Meanwhile, Colac Area Health and emergency services will front a public forum on Tuesday at the Colac Otways Performing Arts & Cultural Centre at 7pm to speak on the unit closure.