Hospital shuts beds, theatre after $1.4m funding cut

BEDS have closed and elective surgery will be delayed under a raft of new measures to save Warrnambool Base Hospital the $1.4 million slashed from its budget by the federal government last year. 

Up to nine beds in the women’s health and rehabilitation units will be closed by Monday, while operating theatres will shut their doors for an entire month over Easter, delaying 260 elective surgery procedures. 

South West Healthcare (SWH) chief executive John Krygger said the five beds in the obstetric and gynaecology unit and four in the geriatric unit had been earmarked to close, with figures revealing SWH is now out of pocket by $200,000 a month because of the federal cuts made in December. 

A memo sent to the hospital’s 1247 staff this week outlined the sweeping changes, laying the blame squarely with the federal government. 

“Our elective surgery waiting list is going to balloon because of the closures,” Mr Krygger said yesterday. 

Operating theatres will close for five weeks between March 25 and June 26. 

He also foreshadowed closing the operating theatres for another two weeks in June. 

“We’ve had to put up a plan to spread the pain around so it doesn’t target one area,” he said. 

“It’s been an assessment of what’s going to have the least impact.” 

Job losses have so far been ruled out, while no changes are expected to hit the emergency department. 

“We’re not at the stage at looking at forced redundancies,” Mr Krygger said. 

Emergency surgery classed at category one remained unaffected but those on the list for category two and three now face an anxious wait for treatment. 

Mr Krygger also warned south-west patients would have little luck seeking out surgery at Melbourne hospitals hard hit by bed closures. “I don’t think that’s an option for people, hospitals in Melbourne are implementing similar measures,” he said. 

The hospital chief directed harsh criticism at the both health ministers deadlocked over funding. 

“This is an impasse between both levels of government and it’s affecting patients in Victoria,” he said. 

Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said he planned to raise the health funding issue when Parliament resumes next month. 

“The south-west community needs to know this cut would not have occurred if Prime Minister Julia Gillard had not removed $107 million from the Victorian health budget before Christmas,” Mr Tehan said. 

“The impact is being felt right across the region.” 

The Wannon MP also pointed bed closures at The Royal Children’s Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to signal the statewide turmoil. 

News of the bed closures come as federal health minister Tanya Plibersek and her Victorian counterpart David Davis prepare to meet in Melbourne tomorrow to discuss the funding crisis. 

The federal government made the $107 million cut during the middle of the financial year as Australian Bureau of Statistic data showed the state’s population had dropped. 

Australian Federation of Nurses state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick took aim at both sides saying the Victorian government had cut $1.2 million from the Warrnambool Base Hospital in 2011. 

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