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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

VIC government’s investment in health sparks debate on priorities and funding

Health Industry Hub | May 26, 2023 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: In the midst of challenging economic times, the Victorian Government is taking a proactive approach to ensure Victorians have access to free, high-quality care within the public health system. This investment comes as a much-needed lifeline for a system facing increasing demand.

Leigh Clarke, CEO of the Victorian Healthcare Association (VHA), welcomed the government’s decision to bolster public health services. With rising demand for healthcare, this investment will help the system cope and meet the needs of the population.

Ms Clarke acknowledged the significance of the state government’s increased funding, especially as Victoria transitions out of the emergency phase of COVID-19 funding arrangements with the Commonwealth Government. The recent federal budget revealed a concerning decrease of 10% in Commonwealth funding for Victorian hospitals in 2023-24, before gradually increasing to align with expected population growth. Navigating through this difficult period requires careful management and innovative solutions.

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The public health system in Victoria continues to face immense pressure due to severe workforce shortages and an increasing demand for complex care. The backlog of elective surgeries and delayed care from pandemic lockdowns still needs to be addressed, and this catch-up work is anticipated to persist for years to come.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has uncovered a series of shortcomings in the public hospital funding arrangement, asserting that the National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA) agreement is in dire need of a comprehensive makeover.

The current agreement, which still has more than two years remaining, has failed to meet its key objectives and has led to a host of alarming consequences. These include ambulance ramping, skyrocketing elective surgery waiting lists, bed blockages, and overwhelmed emergency departments. Startlingly, the AMA estimates that by the end of this financial year (2022-23), there will be a staggering backlog of 507,764 patients awaiting elective surgery. This backlog has been exacerbated by the growing number of patients requiring admission, resulting in prolonged stays in emergency departments (ED) and delayed handovers from ambulances to ED staff.

Despite the many shortcomings, the VHA expressed its appreciation for the Victorian Government’s investment in expanding Victoria’s Virtual Emergency Department. This innovative model, developed in collaboration with public hospitals and Ambulance Victoria, has proven to be effective in reducing emergency response times. By alleviating pressure on the ambulance service and busy emergency departments, the Virtual Emergency Department is bringing relief to the system.

“This is exactly the sort of innovation we need to support and embrace,” stated Ms Clarke. “As we face new challenges, modernising our health system becomes imperative. The Virtual Emergency Department exemplifies the positive impact of investing in new care models.”

The VHA also commended the top-up to the Metropolitan Health Infrastructure Fund, which funds crucial upgrades and maintenance for public hospitals and community health services. However, the association urges a more strategic and predictable approach to support all health services in maintaining their buildings and critical infrastructure.

While the VHA supports future endeavours to build new hospitals, it emphasises the importance of preserving existing health services for safe and effective operation.

“These funds are instrumental in ensuring the integrity of our health facilities, covering essential components like fire and emergency systems, lifts, accessible toilets, and vital infrastructure such as ventilators,” Ms Clarke emphasised.

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