The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says regional Victoria’s hospital system is becoming paralysed by another fatally flawed Labor government kneejerk ‘plan’.
Mr Walsh says in a “frantic bid to boost frontline doctor numbers” across the state the Health Department is throwing thousands of dollars at them to do casual shifts in regional hospitals.
A move he says is ripping the heart out of already badly understaffed private medical practices as doctors, “understandably” jump at the significantly higher salaries.
“But this strategy is forcing many, many people to now head for the emergency department at their local hospital, as appointment wait times with their GPs stretch to weeks and months,” Mr Walsh says.
“All that has been achieved here is to further clog the very system which needed staffing problems fixed,” he added.
“And at the same time Jacinta Allan’s GP health tax has been thrown at unsuspecting doctors, with reports it could cost some practices millions of dollars off their bottom lines as the tax has been made retrospective.”
Mr Walsh says late last year hospitals across the state were also being ordered by Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas to slash costs by millions of dollars and dramatically overhaul office and administration services as the state government continues to grapple with mounting debt – currently racing its way to $200 billion.
He says the government confirmed rural health bosses had been told to find savings between $4m and $10m over the next three years, but were specifically warned to not cut frontline jobs, including nurses and doctors, to avoid public concern.
“What a joke. If the hospitals cut all this money out of back office roles and support positions, who do they think will have to now allocate more time to pick up the slack?” Mr Walsh says.
“Obviously it will be the doctors and nurses, and whichever way the bulk of the extra work rolls, it must have some impact at the patient level because no-one can be everywhere all of the time,” he says.
“Just before Christmas I know the ED in one of the key regional health centres in my electorate had more than 50 people packing it out by 10am – and that’s far from an isolated case.
“Instead of trying to claw back some of the billions it is wasting on big projects in Melbourne, Jacinta Allan needs to get serious and come up with a financial policy that will actually get things we need done, rather than focusing on big-noting headlines.”