Notice of Motion - Federal Health Funding

Extracted from Hansard
23 February 2018

Notice of Motion – Federal Health Funding

Well, how do you follow that? What is that? Is it just acting or performing? This is a serious, serious subject, and that contribution was just typical of what we see from across the chamber — just performance after performance of talking the talk and pretending that they absolutely care. But the reality is to care you need to deliver. To deliver you need to be able to put the runs on the board and show how you can economically provide for the community. That is true caring.

We can all look at the figures and we can see the reality. You can twist figures, and that is what is going on over there. We are getting twisted figures reported to the community, tricking the community into believing things that are not a reality. But do you know what? The reality is we have a growing Victoria and we are not seeing this government understand the needs of the community. Where are they out in the regions understanding the community there? They are not out in the regions, not at all. That is why our roads are crumbling and that is why we do not have access to regional rail. If those opposite say to me, ‘In four years nothing was done’, I would ask them: of the last 16 years how many years have Labor been in charge and done nothing for the regions? Once they hit the end of the tram tracks they have no idea how to even drive, let alone drive on country roads even when they are in good nick, and certainly not when they are in the poor state they are in today.

But let me get back to health. I will give credit where credit is due. Our system is a good system, and that is because of the many hardworking people — nurses, doctors, orderlies, X-ray technicians, radiologists, gynaecologists and specialists — that devote their time to the communities both in Melbourne and across regional Victoria. But it is tough when you see hospitals like Portland hospital. Portland is a small city for the remote position that it is in, and the hospital has a very large catchment of about 15 000 people. It is the hospital with the longest journey to any tertiary centre. You would think that might be Mildura Base Hospital, but they have access to Adelaide. Portland hospital is in a real predicament. With the current state of the funding that they receive, they are not able to meet the demands of the community. It is a growing community. It has a high youth population. These are people who are having babies, and they want to have babies at home in Portland. It is pretty obvious why you would want to do that — so you can have your family around supporting you and your husband present at the birth. These people do not want to travel hours to the closest centre to have their babies. This service should be something that is offered in a hospital as remote as Portland.

However, to keep that service going well you have to have providers like doctors and obstetricians so you can provide a safe service, which is what we would expect in this day and age. But with population growth — 150 000 people came to Victoria last year — Portland hospital had an increased throughput of 9 per cent, and yet under the weighted inlier equivalent separation funding model, known as WIES, they only got a 3.2 per cent increase in funding from this state government. You are supposed to be able to manage your own funding, and so what you would do if you had gone above your funding is cut some elective services, but if you cut your elective services, how do you keep doctors working enough to keep them employed? This is a catch 22 for Portland hospital that needs to be looked at by this government with a view to understanding the challenges the hospital has. They need to attract doctors, but they need to be able to pay them, and they are not always going to be as busy as they would be another hospital, and that needs to be understood. However, they cannot be left with no doctor. It is not appropriate to just say to them, ‘Bad luck. You’ve got a gap and you’ve got to figure out how to deal with it’, because what we have seen with hospitals like Portland — we have seen it at Port Fairy and Heywood as well — is increased costs. They had increased costs from an enterprise bargaining agreement that left them needing more money to pay their nurses. I have no problem with nurses being paid well, no problem with that, but how do they do that if they do not get the money from the government which is giving them the money to meet their costs?

So what do they have to do? They cut nurses. They have to cut services, and often that is the nursing staff if that is the increase of the enterprise bargaining agreement result that they have to pay more to staff.

We need to understand that hospitals the size of Heywood, Port Fairy and Portland are getting the same regulatory demands made of them that you might see at the Royal Melbourne or the Royal Children’s hospitals, but they are not getting any extra administrative support to be able to manage those extra requirements. So we have got increased costs of more staff payments — which is fine, I have no problem with nurses getting paid well — but I do have a problem with the government saying, ‘Pay your nurses more’, but giving no more money in the budget to accommodate that. It just makes no sense.

We have also seen electricity costs. Those hospitals specifically told us earlier this year that they could not manage the increase in costs unless the government gave them more money to pay for those power cost increases, yet we saw none. We saw nothing in response to that that the government would actually say, ‘All right, we understand your costs have gone up, and we need to allocate money accordingly’. No, we see services cut. That is the only option for these hospitals, so regional Victorians are at a disadvantage when their health needs are unable to be met.

What I see too is a 30 per cent increase in the public sector spend. It concerns me when I hear from nurses that instead of the hospital being able to meet their pay rise through extra government funding, they are actually seeing their colleagues not being able to be employed and losing services. With a 30 per cent increase, I would hope to see better outcomes from more people in the public sector, so I would have thought I would see more nurses, but that is not what I am seeing. I would have thought I would see more teachers and better teaching outcomes, but that is not what I am seeing. I would have thought I would see a safer Victoria from more police, but I am not seeing that either. So I do not understand why we are getting increased public sector costs but not increased outputs from that. It just does not add up any more than not funding a hospital to accommodate the growth that the government has orchestrated through increased power costs or increased staffing costs.

The other thing I wanted to bring to the government’s attention was the fact that they can sit there saying, ‘We don’t get enough funding’. Well, here you have a community in Warrnambool with a proven track record that has a hospital that needs to have the nerve centres funded. All we have seen this government do in the last budget was set up a consultative group. That is great. Well, guess what? We know what we need. We need an accident and emergency — it is not big enough to meet the needs of a major motor car accident that may occur and does occur in our region, where you need a lot of staff in the accident and emergency at the critical time.

It also does not have enough theatres. We had an incident recently. Knowing a lot of health staff in the region, I heard about how a baby was at risk because the theatres were full and to get the caesarean section in time was a close call. We have got increased numbers of people in the community demand wise and population wise, so we obviously need more than three theatres, theatres that I worked in 32 years ago when I started my training and did my theatre time — the same three theatres there today. Get on with it if you really care. You know we need it — just build it.

The last thing I want to talk about is The Lookout, which is demonstrating how committed my community is to helping themselves. Here you have got a community that says, ‘We know there is a drug and alcohol problem. It’s a health problem’. It often ends up being a criminal issue and a family violence issue, but it starts off as a health issue. The community said, ‘Let’s build our own centre, a rehabilitation centre where those who want to be rehabilitated can actually stay for three months and be supported’. So they have got together. They have raised, I think, over $600 000, and they have got another $600 000 committed, but they need $1.1 million of recurrent funding committed from this state government, and they will get it done. They will get that area addressed.

And what have we heard? Nothing. It is an opportunity where the community have said, ‘We’ll do our bit. We only need a little bit of recurrent funding. We’ve got everything sorted otherwise’. What an opportunity! You have seen Warrnambool do it before. You saw the cancer centre — the cancer centre that everybody said Warrnambool would not get, but the Liberal government, both federally and state in the Napthine time, saw that come to fruition. That was because the community decided that it was needed, and the Libs backed them.

So do not tell me that health is not something that Liberals absolutely treasure. We are not anywhere near unaware of the fact that it is a high priority of our community, it is a high priority of mine, it is a high priority of my colleagues, and it is because we understand health, education — all those real basics — are what we must do with absolute commitment, and we do. We do it fiscally responsibly, and that is how you make care really work.