Federal Health Funding
Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (12:21:41) — I rise to speak on the motion that is before the house, which condemns the federal government for a funding proposal that short-changes our hospitals by over $2 billion, condemns the Leader of the Opposition for failing to stand up to Canberra on Victorian hospital funding, and notes the federal government owes Victoria $104 million for hospital services already being provided.
It is in this context that I want to put at the heart of this discussion the patient experience and certainly talk about what these cuts mean — what this lack of commitment from Canberra means in terms of real service delivery in my electorate. It would mean that Victorian hospitals miss out on $113.5 million in the first year of the agreement, of 2020–21, and that $2.1 billion over the first five years of the agreement would be lost. At the Djerriwarrh Health Services in Melton, which covers half of my electorate, this would mean a loss of $9.1 million —
Ms Ryall — Acting Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the house.
Ms HUTCHINS — I know the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation would be interested to hear what is being cut out of Djerriwarrh Health: $9.1 million is at risk over the next five years, and that is equivalent to 1469 elective surgeries delivered by that health service, and the employment of 72 nurses and over 30 doctors. At Western Health, which encompasses four hospitals in the western region — and most of them are delivering services to constituents within my electorate and surrounding electorates — it would mean a loss of $119.5 million over five years, which again is equivalent to almost 20 000 elective surgeries or 956 nurses.
Imagine the jobs that could come for all the students that are currently in training at many of our good institutions across Victoria or wanting to do their placements at local health services — 956 opportunities of nursing lost because of these funding cuts. Or it could be the equivalent of 400 new doctors in the west, not to mention the hundreds of child patients and families in my electorate that use the Royal Children’s Hospital, which is looking at a potential loss of $84 million. Victoria’s position is quite simple: the commonwealth should pay for its fair share.
On Saturday morning I spend most of my time at kids cricket, and I often sit with a mum at cricket who is one of the receptionists that triages emergency calls that come in at the Royal Children’s Hospital. To hear some of the very heart-wrenching stories of parents that are ringing up, seeking advice, wanting extra resources, that are not sure whether to bring their children into emergency and face potential long waits — the anxiousness that she has to deal with on a daily basis in her job as one person that works there — I know from what she has told me that certainly a loss of $84 million worth of funding would have an impact at a time when this state is growing, at a time when we are seeing more babies, particularly in the northern and western suburbs, being born every week, and the demand on services at the Royal Children’s Hospital absolutely escalating.
And why wouldn’t people want to move to Victoria? It is a great place to be, it is a great place to live. We are watching hundreds, if not thousands, of families move from other states to call Victoria home. They are dependent on these services but clearly the Turnbull government is refusing to cough up by acknowledging the 50 per cent growth in the sector and funding it accordingly. We think that the federal government needs to have a good, hard look at itself.
It is also proposing to cap growth funding at 6.5 per cent, an amount which would not meet the growing demands of our hospitals or our hospital systems here in Victoria. Its deal is not in line with community expectations and it is less than what Victorians deserve, but quite frankly it is what we have come to expect from coalition governments when it is their turn to cough up money for health care. Victoria’s health system is still recovering from the four years of cuts and neglect that it faced under the former Liberal government, with the cutting of $1 billion out of our health system just in the four years they were in government.
It only took the former Minister for Health 21 days to inflict his first health cuts on the state, which would ultimately cost Victorians more than $350 million. We saw the trickle-down effect in many of the hospitals, including Sunshine Hospital, where we saw services being cut particularly to the most vulnerable in my electorate. In specific terms I think the service that was cut was for identifying and doing assessments on children with special needs at the ages of three and four, which is an extremely important time in a child’s life to have those sorts of disabilities identified. That service was absolutely stripped back under the previous government. I am happy to say that has been restored and the cap on that service has been lifted, and we are seeing kids being diagnosed at a much earlier age, which means they can get intervention and health support at a much earlier age before they enter schools.
Victorians suffered the consequences with hospital waiting lists blowing out during this time and ambulance response times blowing out as well, but I am proud to say that we have managed to turn that around. Part of that has been on the basis of us being able to negotiate enterprise agreements in good faith with our workforce in the health industry to improve the care for patients. That is really evident in a lot of the productivity outcomes that have been listed in our enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) in the health sector. I am proud to say we negotiated all of our major enterprise bargaining agreements in the health sector without any industrial action. This government has also invested $40 million to prevent and reduce occupational violence in our workplaces across the health system and to protect those that deliver the services. Of course we proudly introduced family violence leave into our EBAs across the health sector as well.
Let us not forget that we inherited an ambulance crisis from the former government as they waged war on paramedics, and Victorians suffered the worst ambulance response times on the Australian mainland. I am really pleased that only this week the Premier and Minister for Health have been able to announce how strong our ambulance response times have now become, with the latest figures showing 81.4 per cent of code ones being responded to within 15 minutes, up from the 2013–14 results of 73.7 per cent in the same category. So we have seen a massive jump, and when we see that massive jump what that means is more lives are being saved. We know particularly in the circumstances of cardiac arrest that minutes matter in saving lives and also when it comes to those who have suffered strokes. So these response times are having an absolutely huge impact on our communities and are seeing more people and more families being saved by quick response times.
We have recruited 325 new paramedics and we have committed to training and allocating those to a range of areas all across Victoria, including regional centres, and that has been a great achievement. It is absolutely shameful that the funding proposal put forward by the Turnbull government will only see these services under further pressure as we struggle to deliver the high standards that we have established as a government and cope with the growth that we face as a successful state.
Mr WAKELING (Ferntree Gully) (12:11:38) — Here we are, and I think we just need to see the unedifying events that occurred during question time to see where this government is placed. We have got, allegedly, ministers at war with each other. We have got a government that is not focused on improving —
Ms Hutchins interjected.
Mr WAKELING — We have a minister who is at war with one of his colleagues in the other house, if that is a better explanation for the minister at the table. We have got a government that is not focused on improving services and making Victoria a safer place.
Here we are in the last year of this current Parliament, at a time when Victorians are concerned about their safety and at a time when Victorians are concerned about the reliability of electricity supply and the costs associated with electricity, and this government has taken it upon itself not to debate legislation in this place on a sitting Thursday, for an entire day, to determine how to improve situations for which this government has responsibility. It has seen fit to debate a motion, item 5 on the notice paper. Heaven forbid that this government actually takes responsibility for what is within its remit, which is to introduce legislation into this house and to debate legislation to improve the services and facilities that Victorians expect.
When we look at this debate, which is about health services, I am reminded that hospitals have seen a significant increase in the cost of running their services because of significantly increased prices in electricity, and this government has done nothing to provide any relief to those hospitals to deal with that issue. It has done nothing to provide support to health services across the state that are now paying out more money for electricity due to a policy that was imposed by this government. So if we are going to talk about health services, let us talk about how the policies of this government have impacted hospitals, community health services and the breadth of allied health services across the state because of the impact of electricity prices imposed upon them by this government.
But no, we are not even getting legislation in this house to deal with the health system. We are not debating legislation. We are not seeking to improve the health system by changing legislation. We are debating a motion regarding the federal government. I would have thought that there were enough issues within the remit of the Victorian government to occupy this government before it worries about the federal government. I would have thought that this government would have known that there were so many concerns of Victorians with electricity prices, with law and order — and the list goes on — and that this government would use every day available to it for the remainder of this parliamentary session before the election to put in place legislation to improve the services and infrastructure that affect Victorians.
But no, because this government cannot manage its legislative agenda, because this government is lazy in not introducing appropriate legislation to ensure that on a Thursday we have bills to debate, it is wasting the Parliament’s time for an entire day to debate someone’s motion on the federal government. I think this is a demonstration of where this government is currently at.
This is a government without vision, this is a government without direction, this is a government without an agenda, this is a government that does not listen and this is a government that does not understand what impacts Victorians — what impacts mums and dads. This is a government that does not understand that over summer residents were without power. Residents in my community that rely on electricity to operate dialysis machines were without power for significant periods of time, and a token amount of money is not what my constituents were looking for; they were looking for a government that listened, that understood the impact of its decision to sit back and support the closure of Hazelwood and that understood that if you remove significant generational power from the electricity system, it impacts the Victorian community.
My community, as are Victorians across the state, are paying significantly more for their electricity. That means they have less money to pay for other services that they would normally spend money on — one being private health insurance, another paying for medical expenses, another paying for drugs and other treatments. When Victorians are making decisions like ‘Do I pay an electricity bill or do I go to the chemist to get my prescription?’, this is an example of a government that is out of touch.
If we are going to talk about health services, why aren’t we in here debating legislation about improving the Victorian health system, instead of wasting our time debating a motion talking about the federal government? If we want to come in here and talk about the Victorian health system, why do we not talk about the fact that just down the road at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre we still have an empty floor? It was closed on ideological grounds and provided no benefit to Victorians — opposed because of blind ideology. I ask the rhetorical question: would that have happened under Steve Bracks? Would that have happened under John Brumby? Probably not. But it happened under this government because this is a government that is more concerned about ideology than it is about delivering health services.
Members opposite can stand up in this house and try to lecture Victorians — lecture us, lecture the community — on what they are doing for the state, but their actions speak louder than their words. If you are really concerned about the health system, maybe you could stand up and explain why you still oppose the utilisation of the top floor of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. Because I am pretty sure Victorians would be appalled to learn that they have paid for a facility that is still empty, and that you had an organisation that was willing to access the facility to provide health services that was overall going to provide a better service with respect to cancer treatment, but no, you did not proceed with it.
When you look around the state, you have private facilities located alongside public health facilities. No-one is talking about the closure of Jessie McPherson Private Hospital out at Clayton. No-one is talking about other services where there are private health providers working alongside the public health system. Another opportunity was presented to the government to do just that — to benefit the Victorian community by marrying the private sector with the public sector, which overall provides a better health service for all. But no, that did not proceed on ideological grounds.
So if we are going to talk about health and we want to have a motion — if those opposition are not going to worry about legislation, if you are going to abrogate our responsibility as a government in terms of actually trying to legislate and improve services — I would have thought you could at least stand up in this place and provide an explanation to Victorians on that very important issue. I would have thought that you could have stood up in this place and explained to Victorians why it is that the cost of your Victorian Heart Hospital, which was lauded as being a significant health service for residents in the south-east and the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, has blown out by 210 per cent. Costed at $150 million, it has blown out to $470 million, and we still do not have a facility. They are the things that we should be talking about under this government, but we are not. This government wants to waste the entire day debating a motion instead of getting on with legislation — and I think that speaks volumes to Victorians about where this government is placed.