New cuts to Border hospitals

ALBURY Wodonga Health faces another $2 million budget cut that could lengthen the already long waiting lists for public patients.

Victorian Health Minister David Davis yesterday blamed the federal government’s decision to reduce hospital funding nationwide and said it translated to a $1 million cut in Victoria’s allocation for Albury-Wodonga.

But Albury Wodonga Health says the true impact could be $2 million for a six-month period because the cuts would be matched in the NSW support for the cross-border service.

The service received $155.7 million in combined state funding last financial year and recorded a $2 million deficit.

An ongoing cash shortage prompted a decision last month to cut 50 jobs and keep some beds closed.

The elective surgery waiting list for public patients rose to 3500, with no prospect of it being reduced any time soon.

Chief executive officer Dr Stuart Spring last night said that if the federal cuts mentioned by Mr Davis during his visit to Wodonga went ahead, it would mean more bed closures.

Waiting lists would inevitably lengthen.

“It would have a profound effect on our ability to deliver services,” Dr Spring said.

Mr Davis revealed his concerns when The Border Mail asked him to comment on Albury Wodonga Heath’s funding crisis as revealed by Dr Spring last month.

He replied that Victoria had increased health funding across the state this year and Albury-Wodonga had received a significant increase.

“There is one significant cloud on the horizon — the federal government’s decision to reduce funding,” he said.

Federal and state health ministers have been squabbling about federal cuts made because of a downward revision of population growth projections across Australia.

Mr Davis said the first federal cut to Victoria would be made on December 7, but it is understood Australian premiers and health ministers will meet about that time to consider the matter again.

Meanwhile, Mr Davis assured Albury-Wodonga that the state government would contribute to the Border’s $65 million regional cancer centre as promised.

“The Victorian government is supporting the establishment of the cancer centre with additional resources from my department to do the planning work (which) is well-advanced,” he said.

Accompanied by member for Benambra Bill Tilley, Mr Davis later met Border doctors’ leaders Tracey Merriman and Pieter Mourik on the funding of the Border’s health services and on medical recruitment prospects.