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AMA Victoria’s Report on the Baillieu Government’s First Two Years

Friday 23 November 2012



Overall the Baillieu Government has performed well in both the health and mental health portfolios in its first two years. However its failure to meet a number of key promises to improve the public hospital system is concerning. Questions also remain on how it will address the medical training crisis facing Victoria

AMA Victoria has welcomed the Government’s 10 year plan for Victoria’s health system including the release of the Victorian Health Priorities Framework, Metropolitan and Rural and Regional Health Plans. However the
yet-to-be released Capital and Resources Plan is urgently needed and we await fulfillment of this Coalition pledge.

Many state Parliamentary Inquiries and Reviews have been completed over the last two years including the Inquiry into Organ Donation; the Guardianship and Administration Law Review; the Inquiry into Hospital Violence; and the Inquiry into access by donor-conceived people to information about donors.

AMA Victoria has welcomed the Government’s consultative approach on these issues and the extensive work undertaken by the Committees conducting those Inquiries. While we have seen some positive signs from the Government in response, we hope that further action on the key recommendations is imminent.

Public Hospitals

The latest Victorian Health Services Performance Report shows Victoria’s hospital system is struggling to cope with the increased demand for services and our hospitals desperately need more resources. We recognise that negotiations with the Commonwealth are continuing. However, it is up to the Baillieu Government to ensure that all Victorians have access to the care they need.

The Baillieu Government committed to deliver 800 beds in its first term including 100 beds in its first financial year in office. The Health Minister has since confirmed that the first 100 beds were delivered by 30 June 2012 however we are yet to find out what type of beds these are and where they are located. We have recently submitted an FOI request for the information.

It is essential that a detailed breakdown of bed type and location be released to ensure there is overall growth in public hospital beds in Victoria. We need greater transparency than currently exists. AMA Victoria has repeatedly called on the Government to announce where the new beds are located and what type they are.

Additionally, the Government has not yet released the promised ‘hidden waiting list’ data. The Coalition committed to revealing how long patients are waiting for outpatient appointments within twelve months of taking office however no new data on outpatient waiting times has yet been released.1

Prior to the State Election the Coalition committed to an audit of healthcare worker rosters to make sure they are not working unsafe hours.2 The Government has not yet indicated when this audit will take place. Additionally, they committed to an audit of hospital bed capacity to determine if additional beds – beyond the initial 800 – were required.3

The Government has provided much needed clarity on the future of hospital ICT by discontinuing the roll-out of HealthSmart and has allocated $100 million over four years to the Victorian Innovation, E-Health and Communications Technology Fund which will be informed by the newly-established Health Innovation and Reform Council.

We welcome the Government’s commitment to a new approach to health ICT to improve the quality and safety of services delivered in Victorian hospitals and look forward to additional and sustainable ongoing health ICT funding in future budgets.

Work on a number of key hospital redevelopment projects is ongoing including at Box Hill, Bendigo, Echuca and Geelong Hospitals. Significant increased funding has also been provided to expand Ballarat Base Hospital and Frankston Hospital’s Emergency Department as well as to rebuild Charlton Hospital.

Additional funding has facilitated the completion of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre and the new Royal Children’s Hospital. While funding for some major hospital projects was delayed, including for the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and Monash Children’s Hospital, the funds have now been committed and planning is underway for both hospitals



Public & Preventive Health

The Government has supported a number of existing and new public health initiatives. These have included bans on the sale of bongs, many flavoured tobacco products, Kronic and other synthetic cannabinoids. These initiatives will help reduce the negative impact of legal and illegal drugs. Significant funding has also been made available for programs to prevent chronic disease including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

We are concerned that the Government has not implemented more comprehensive policies to address smoking levels in Victoria and that it still has not yet committed to a state-wide ban on smoking in outdoor drinking and dining areas. Victoria is the only jurisdiction in Australia not to have introduced such bans or announced the intention to do so.

The Government has also released a number of key health planning documents including the Metropolitan and Rural and Regional Health Plan – two of the three ten year health plans – and the first Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan.

We have welcomed the Government’s commitment to palliative care and fulfillment of its promise to provide $34.4 million to palliative care services in Victoria. We are awaiting the Government’s official response to the VLRC Guardianship and Administration Law Review which advises consolidation of existing law on end of life choices and advance care planning as well extending the law on advance care directives.


 
 

Protecting and Enhancing Victoria's Health Workforce

We are still without a clear plan for action to address medical training shortages in Victoria and this should be outlined in the long-awaited Health Capital and Resources Plan. We are hopeful of a negotiated agreement between the state and federal governments to ensure that all Victorian medical graduates get the training they need. The Government must show us how it plans to address the shortfalls in intern training places and prevocational training positions more generally.

We have welcomed the Coalition’s commitment to introduce stronger penalties for ED violence in response to the recommendation by the Inquiry into Hospital Violence and we expect to work with the Government on extending the legislation to apply to all health workers. We also expect additional funding to address these issues in line with the $21 million the Coalition originally allocated for Protective Services Officers in hospitals – a proposal rejected by the Inquiry.

 


Mental Health

The Government is implementing many of its key election commitments on mental health. These have included the creation of a mental health research fund, the opening of new mental health beds, and funding private sector rental accommodation for those with severe mental illness. The Government has opened new female only spaces at psychiatric services including at The Alfred and Box Hill Hospital. These are welcome improvements to the mental health system in Victoria.

Prior to last year’s election the Coalition promised 85 new mental health beds in its first term.5 In this year’s budget, it promised to increase that number to 95 beds. AMA Victoria will continue to monitor the fulfillment of these promises.

 
 
 


1Coalition Media Release, ‘Vic Coalition To Increase Health Transparency By Releasing Outpatient Waiting Lists’ (16 June 2010)
2 ‘Coalition would audit rosters: Davis’, The Age (12 October 2010)
3 Coalition Media Release, ‘Baillieu delivers 800 new beds in first term’ (11 November 2010)
4 Victorian Budget 2011-12 Service Delivery — Budget Paper No. 3; http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/weary-hospital-set-for-multimillion-dollar-makeover-20121122-29s3f.html, accessed 22 November 2012 and http://www.heraldsun.com.au/opinion/premier-ted-baillieu-puts-children-first/story-e6frfhqo-1226522296992, accessed 23 November 2012.
5Coalition Media Release, ‘Coalition’s $108.55 million plan to fix mental health care neglect’ (16 November 2010)

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