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AMA Victoria's advocacy efforts ahead of the 2024/25 Victorian Budget centred on three primary areas: public health services, general practice, and mental health. These solutions were directed at advancing a Victorian healthcare system that not only empowers doctors but also enriches patient care.

Acknowledging Victoria’s budgetary constraints and anticipated cuts, the Government's commitment to investing over $11 billion in healthcare services for future health needs, including more than $8.8 billion in operating funding for hospitals, stands as a positive headline result. This allocation purportedly marks the largest single investment in our hospital system in the state’s history.

However despite this record investment, the lack of focus on general practice and preventative healthcare is disappointing. While we welcome the investment in hospitals, the long-term sustainability of our health system depends on a robust general practice sector, which requires greater support.

Furthermore, there is a pressing need for increased investment in digital health infrastructure and interoperability measures. Nonetheless, we acknowledge the challenging financial circumstances Victoria faces following the unprecedented events of the pandemic.
 

Public Hospitals

The $11+ billion investment in the state budget for 2024-25 (with $8.8 billion allocated for hospital funding) aims to deliver new hospitals, increase healthcare workers, provide additional services, and ensure the long-term financial sustainability and certainty of our health services.

The Government's decision to expand and redevelop the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Royal Women’s Hospitals, rather than building the two towers at Arden due electromagnetic interference from the Metro Tunnel, aims to enhance beds and services in Parkville. Future budgets will likely see funding for this initiative.

Furthermore, implementing changes associated with the Health Services Plan and the Ministerial Review will require additional financial investment, which has not been included in the 2024-25 budget.
 

General Practice

AMA Victoria’s advocacy for general practice prior to the budget was ambitious.

The inclusion of a $10 million co-designed grant program to support GPs in the Treasurer’s support fund is a positive step, and a direct result of AMA Victoria’s advocacy efforts. Likewise, the funding of Priority Primary Care Centres (PPCCs) for another year is acknowledged, though evaluation from the Department as to return on investment is pending.

The need for a favourable resolution to the payroll tax issue, lamentably, remains outstanding.
 

Mental Health

The pace of mental health reform, including the phasing out of restrictive interventions and changes to compulsory assessment and treatment criteria, has slowed down, presenting a welcome opportunity for respite and consolidation for the mental health workforce.

Additionally, various initiatives, such as funding for mental health alcohol and other drugs hubs, substantial support for eating disorders, and support for consultation liaison psychiatry services, demonstrate a commitment to addressing mental health needs.
 

Conclusion

In conclusion, while there are positive aspects to the 2024-25 Victorian Budget from a healthcare perspective, there remain areas that require further attention and funding, particularly in general practice and preventative healthcare. Moreover, the (potential) implementation of the Health Services Plan and the Ministerial Review loom as potentially profound catalyst for change, neither of which have been budgeted for. Continued advocacy and monitoring will be essential to ensure the ongoing improvement of the healthcare system in Victoria.
 

A full analysis of the 2024 Victorian State Budget will be provided in the June 2024 Edition of Vicdoc.