State's hospitals face tough budget cuts
August 11, 2011
VICTORIAN hospitals may be forced to cut health services, including paediatric care, as they battle to cut tens of millions of dollars from their budgets this year.
Hospital sources at the Royal Melbourne, Northern and Austin hospitals told The Age they had been asked to save between $6 million and $30 million this financial year, prompting reviews of clinical services.
One source at the Austin Hospital who did not want to be named said doctors were horrified to learn that management were considering cuts to its 12-bed paediatric unit to help save $10 million this year.
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A spokesman for the hospital said although there was budget pressure, paediatric services would not be cut. The other hospitals did not comment on the cuts and what it meant for their services.
Chief executive of the Victorian Healthcare Association Trevor Carr said hospital staff had told him they were facing a very difficult year, made worse by ongoing costs from the state government's troubled IT system, HealthSmart.
''Most are saying it is going to be very, very tough … There is a lot of forecasting of red ink,'' he said.
President of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association Dr Harry Hemley condemned the budget cuts, which are sometimes referred to as ''productivity cuts'' designed to make hospitals more efficient.
He said many Victorian hospitals were operating at 95 to 100 per cent capacity, making it impossible for them to work harder or faster.
''We are the only state in Australia that seems to be discharging people from hospitals at 2am … We're always seeing hospitals running into strife,'' he said.
''You can only improve productivity if the system is set up for that. We need more bed capacity and an improved IT system in order to increase productivity in Victorian hospitals.
''It has been proven, over and over again, by local and international...