Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty concerned about cuts to school, hospital funding

Wimmera Health Care Group chief executive Chris Scott and Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty with Victorian flag at Wimmera Base Hospital earlier in the year. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Wimmera Health Care Group chief executive Chris Scott and Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty with Victorian flag at Wimmera Base Hospital earlier in the year. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

STATE Premiers will seek a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey about cuts to education and hospital funding. 

Tuesday’s Federal Budget revealed plans to save more than $80 billion in a decade by cutting funding to schools and hospitals.

“The government is adopting sensible indexation arrangements for schools from 2018, and hospitals from 2017-18, and removing funding guarantees for public hospitals,” the Federal Budget overview reads.

“State governments have primary responsibility for running and funding public hospitals and schools.

“The extent of existing Commonwealth funding blurs these accountabilities and is unaffordable.”

Retiring Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty said it was a major concern.

“We haven’t been given any notice about this and our budget has been set,” he said.

He said Premiers were seeking a meeting with Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey to discuss their plans.

“But I don’t think anything will change in the short term, because the implications of this will not take place for a couple of years and there will be heavy discussions in relation to it.”

He said Federal Government funding was essential to ensuring states were able to deliver on health and education.

Closer to home, Wimmera Health Care Group chief executive Chris Scott said leaders of his organisation met on Wednesday to discuss the potential effects of the state and federal budgets.

“Talks are fairly superficial at this stage, because we have yet to see what the detail is in the budget papers,” he said.

“A lot of those elements also need to go through the government process.”

But he said changes to the health sector at both levels of government could have a serious impact on Wimmera hospitals, which had already been streamlining their services to cope with financial pressure from the existing economic climate.

“The proposed $7 fee is something which – particularly in the Wimmera, where we don’t have a lot of bulk-billing clinics – will certainly put pressure on the transfer of people into our emergency departments,” Mr Scott said.

“We are not sure whether a similar fee will exist for emergency departments, at this stage.’’

He was also concerned by the lack of federal support for public hospitals.

“It exposes the state to a level of financial risk they now need to address,” Mr Scott said.

“It looks like any adjustments to our funding will be made based on population growth and-or consumer price index.

“Obviously a lot of these things have some lead time on them, so we have a bit of time to prepare as an organisation.

“But this is a period of change and, given the impact of the Federal Budget, we will have to reassess the range of services we can provide so we can continue to deliver safe, good, quality services to our community.’’

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