Warrnambool had one healthcare win in the recent state budget but the health funding made for mostly sobering reading for south-west residents least able to pay for medical care.
The big positive for the region in the health portfolio was the confirmation of a new women's health clinic in Warrnambool, to be run by South West Healthcare.
The clinic will be one of 20 throughout the state and one of eight in regional Victoria. A government spokesperson said it would provide "free comprehensive care and support Victorians experiencing conditions like endometriosis, pelvic pain, polycystic ovary syndrome, and those managing the symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause".
Further details on the clinics remain vague. The government has said it aims to open five clinics a year over the next four years. The Standard asked where Warrnambool was on the schedule, but didn't get a response by deadline.
Western Victoria Greens MP and former general practitioner Sarah Mansfield said the clinic would be a win for Warrnambool once it was up and running, but she worried about the more isolated areas of the south-west.
"From reading the budget papers it appears some areas will have free clinics whereas others will still face out of pocket costs, so we're not clear why some regional areas in particular will still face out of pocket costs, while metro areas don't," Dr Mansfield said.
The budget also renewed funding for Warrnambool's respiratory clinic for at least another year and put $32 million over the next two years towards "incentivising" doctors to become GPs.
In an attempt to take pressure off the overwhelmed GP network, the budget announced a $20 million 12-month pilot program under which pharmacists can provide treatment and advice for basic health problems.
The scheme has been modelled on similar trials in Queensland and NSW, allowing pharmacists to treat minor skin complaints and reissue oral contraceptives and prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections.
The Royal Australian College of GPs has raised concerns about the Queensland trial, citing 192 patients getting treatment from pharmacists when they needed more expert care, apparently putting their health at risk.
Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the program would be closely monitored and would help people get access to healthcare they might not get otherwise.
"Our community pharmacists have a wealth of experience and knowledge - they can recognise when there's a simple solution and when things need to be escalated to a doctor," Ms Thomas said.
Dr Mansfield said she was generally "disappointed" with the money being invested in preventive healthcare, especially the lack of funding towards community health and public dental care.
"There's very little investment in community and primary health. There's really no new money going into improving primary or community-based healthcare," Dr Mansfield said.
"We know that it's the best value healthcare, it keeps people healthy and keeps them out of hospital. You get better value for your money and you deliver better health outcomes to your population."
She said she had hoped there would be funding for public dental care, especially with wait lists remaining at historic highs. Victorians are waiting 22 months on average to receive dentures through the public system, and 23 months for general dental care.
Dr Mansfield said that "isn't good enough". "The state government provide funding for public dental services and we know it's not even coming close to meeting the needs of people out there," she said.
"In the new budget there's almost no money for dental at all. There's no increase to public dental funding for adults, which we know is desperately needed," Dr Mansfield said.
"There's a small amount of money that will go to expanding the school dental program for non-government schools and that won't even kick in for four years, but that's all the money there is for dental."
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