Temporary relief, but district health services still face cuts

DISTRICT hospitals will restore all services until the end of this financial year after a reprieve from the federal government but say they have been caught in a brawl between the state and federal governments.

The health providers are breathing easier after relief from the dramatic cuts to their budgets, but say they still need to work out where reductions will be made in the next three years.

The funding reversal means $437,000 will go back into Western District Health Services budget for this financial year, $257,000 into Portland District Health’s budget, $255,000 into Colac Area Health, $47,900 into Moyne Health Services, $69,700 into Terang and Mortlake Health Service, $50,015 into Timboon and District Healthcare Service, $31,200 into Heywood Rural Health and $46,300 into Casterton Memorial Health.

Western District Health Services chief executive officer Jim Fletcher said the announcement was good news but there were still challenges for health services, which would need to make long-term savings.

“It gives us more time to meet the reductions to the budget,” he said.

“It’s a welcome relief, there is no question about it, but there are challenges ahead.

“We know we have to make changes to meet the budget cuts from July 1 this year.”

Portland District Health chairman Mike Noske said there needed to be some certainty for funding models.

“What we’re hearing is the federal government has said it will reinstate this $107 million and take it out of the hands of the state government,” Mr Noske said.

“If that is the case they’re trying to shift the political heat from themselves and onto the state government.

“We’re caught in the middle of a brawl between the federal and state government. If the federal government have a problem with their budget they need to look at federal government expenditure.

“It’s very frustrating.”

Colac Area Health chief executive officer Geoff Iles said the decision was welcomed but the hospital still needed to make savings for the next three years.

He said at this stage the hospital was still considering the closure of urgent care to make the forecasted savings.

He said he hoped health care providers were not punished again: “It has been most unfair on the community and the staff to be put into that position.”

Federal member for Corangamite, Darren Cheeseman, said the federal government would directly give the $255,000 to Colac Hospital to resolve the crisis.

“The community meeting’s message was simple — no more blame game and fix the problem. Well, I have done my bit to restore funding, we are paying this money directly to Colac hospital because we don’t trust the state government to pass it on,” he said.

“I now call on the state government to reverse their cuts to Colac Area Health.”

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