Echuca hospital will lose more than $400,000 if proposed federal funding cuts are made this financial year.By Kathleen Tonini
The Echuca hospital will consider extending its Christmas ‘low activity period’ to cope with potential cuts in federal funding.
The Federal Government is proposing to cut about $100 million in funding from Victorian hospitals this financial year because revised population estimates show Victoria’s population is not growing at the expected rate.
Echuca hospital chief executive Michael Delahunty said the hospital usually closed some beds during Christmas and New Year while staff took annual leave.
He said the hospital could extend the period if the proposed $407,000 in federal funding from ERH was cut.
Mr Delahunty said the money had already been included in this year’s budget, before the Federal Government made a ‘‘unilateral decision without consultation’’ with hospitals.
He said demand for health services was increasing in all public hospitals, not decreasing.
He also said Moama’s population would not have been counted, as the Federal Government had just looked at the population of Victoria.
Mr Delahunty said the new bigger hospital was being built because Echuca’s population was expected to increase.
He said bed closures were the most extreme measure, but other coping mechanisms were also being considered.
He would not say what those other measures were.
‘‘At the end of the day there will be some impact on our patients,’’ he said.
Mr Delahunty said the final decision was expected to be made by the end of this week.
While the Victorian Government is blaming the Federal Government, the Federal Health Minister is pointing the finger at the state government.
A spokesperson for Tanya Plibersek said the Federal Government was actually increasing funding for Victoria, with health funding to increase by 26 per cent over the next four years.
He said it was the state government who distributed funding to the hospitals.
‘‘Any reduction in funding to hospitals is a decision of the Baillieu Government,’’ he said.
The spokesperson said Victoria was also receiving an extra $66.9 million in GST payments this year.
He said growth forecasts had been revised on a formula Victoria had agreed to and Victoria’s population had not grown as quickly as expected.
Consequently the Federal Government’s contribution would not grow as much, he said.
‘‘Health Minister David Davis pretends the Commonwealth is claiming Victoria’s population has fallen,’’ he said.
‘‘That is not the case. It simply hasn’t grown as quickly as expected, according to the most recent Census by the independent Australian Bureau of Statistics.’’
Last financial year the Echuca hospital saw a nearly eight per cent rise in emergency department presentations.
There was a 4.5 per cent increase in hospital admissions and a 4.2 per cent increase in patient bed days.
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