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The Victorian Budget delivers on mental health and addiction

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The 2018-2019 Victorian State Budget’s centrepiece is a significant investment inhospital infrastructure and services.

This Budget has invested $1.2 billion in hospital upgrades and $2.1 billion in additional funding for hospital and ambulance services. Substantial increases in funding will be dedicated to support the medical workforce in terms of medical and health personnel numbers and the ability to fund the training and development of doctors in public hospitals.

AMA Victoria acknowledges the Andrews Government commitment to upgrading and expanding the Ballarat Base and Wonthaggi hospitals.

In AMA Victoria’s pre-budget submission to the Treasury Department, we made it clear that truly significant funding was needed for mental health care.

This Budget prioritises the management of acute mental health patients in the emergency department (ED) setting with funding of new mental health and alcohol and other drugs hubs in EDs at Monash, St Vincent’s, Geelong, Royal Melbourne, Sunshine and Frankston hospitals, along with an investment in 89 new acute inpatient beds and three (3) new drug residential rehabilitation treatment facilities, in  regional Geelong, Gippsland and Hume. Recognising that patients suffering mental health and addiction (so-called ‘dual-diagnosis’) present to mainstream health services is welcome and should see safer treatment settings for both the patients and workforce.

AMA Victoria is pleased with the significant investment in the mental health nurse workforce it was also hoped that today’s Budget would deliver workforce reforms to support medical practitioners, especially those working in rural and regional areas and recognition of the importance of funding projects to integrate patients discharged from acute mental health and hospital care into general practice and outpatient clinical psychiatry services (including private psychiatry).

AMA Victoria advocated for greater funding and support for outpatient services across the state in our 2018-19 pre-budget submission. We are also pleased to see a $153 million investment in community mental health packages of care.

The Victorian Government has begun the necessary, and long overdue, funding requirements to support health information technology infrastructure.Funding will be dedicated to the roll-out of electronic medical records across Royal Melbourne, Peter MacCallum the Royal Women’s and the Royal Children’s hospitals.

We expect this funding to address workflows within those services and deliver at-time-of-discharge summaries to patients’ GPs to ensure appropriate community based follow up and support. We look to this IT initiative being extended to all hospitals and that the systems will ‘talk’ to each other.

In AMA Victoria’s pre-budget submission and subsequent meetings with the Victorian Government, we made it clear that truly significant funding in palliative care was needed.  AMA Victoria cautions that access to voluntary assisted dying in a patient’s community must not be easier than access to local community palliative care.

AMA Victoria is now looking to what state and/or Federal funding will be available for community based general practice and localised prevention and management programs for mental health, including for example Mental Health Plans. Also there appears to be no significant funding targeted to patients suffering dementia both in aged care settings and the community. Dedicated services for these are needed.  Separately, funding is needed for outreach services to residential aged-care, where over 50% of residents suffer from dementia, a major challenge for our aging population.

AMA Victoria believes that improving the nation’s health literacy is critical to creating a system of health prevention.  We were hoping to see greater funding for perinatal and child health services to help support parents to better understand the role of good nutrition and exercise early in the lives of their children to prevent lifestyle diseases as they grow into adults, such as type II diabetes and heart disease.

We also vigorously advocated for funding and support to respond to patients with problem drinking and drug use and to deliver early intervention responses, as a preventative health measure. It is not clear these funding announcements address this.  

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