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    “Staff morale is incredibly low as disempowered staff try their best to work within decisions made hundreds of kilometres away by people with no connection to the local community or workforce” – Emma Kealy.

Health system cuts imminent – Nationals

By Colin MacGillivray

The State Government has hit back at Member for Lowan Emma Kealy and Federal Member for Mallee Anne Webster after the pair predicted health cuts and a ‘horror State Budget’.

Ms Kealy said regional hospitals were at risk of funding cuts, forced mergers, service reductions and closures as part of cost-cutting budget measures.

She said the government had imposed ‘unrealistic savings targets’ on Victoria’s 76 health services.

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“These cuts will directly impact on patients across regional Victoria who are already grappling with challenges in accessing basic healthcare and experiencing prolonged wait times for essential treatments,” she said.

“Under Labor, rural and regional hospitals are being forced to merge and local health services are being cut. 

“We’ve already seen a reduction of services and management locally as a result of the Grampians Health takeover by Ballarat.

“Staff morale is incredibly low as disempowered staff try their best to work within decisions made hundreds of kilometres away by people with no connection to the local community or workforce.”

Dr Webster said regional hospitals faced ‘inevitable closures’.

“The risk of closing hospitals has been foreseeable, something I have been calling out whenever I get a chance and is a disaster waiting to happen,” she said. 

“Regional Victorian healthcare has been in crisis with thin workforces and a lack of services as the Labor government centralises services to Melbourne and distant cities.”

Dr Webster, the Shadow Assistant Health Minister, also accused the Federal Government of neglecting regional healthcare. But a State Government spokesperson hit back at the pair’s claims, accusing them of spreading misinformation.

The spokesperson said Labor had invested more than $40-billion into rural and regional Victoria since forming government in 2014.

“The Member for Lowan is once again proving she would prefer to score political points and spread fear amongst her community – on the contrary, we are focused on delivering record funding to our health services to ensure people across Victoria’s west get the care and treatment they need,” the spokesperson said.

“It also begs the question, where was the Member for Lowan’s voice when the Federal Member for Mallee was part of a Federal Government that turned its back on Australians, destroying primary care and Medicare?

“We are not in the business of cutting frontline health budgets and we don’t intend to start now, our track record in health speaks for itself – unlike the Liberal National Party, we don’t close, privatise or slash funding to our hospitals.”

The spokesperson disputed Ms Kealy’s claims that health services in the region had suffered since Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital, Stawell Regional Health, Wimmera Health Care Group and Ballarat Health merged to form Grampians Health in 2021.

They said the merger was not driven by cost savings, and had resulted in a net gain of frontline staff.

They said Grampians Health had expanded maternity care with a new outpatient clinic in Horsham; increased access to oncology and allied health services by 33 percent in the past year; introduced an on-site doctor at Stawell Hospital for the first time; and staffed Stawell Medical Centre at its highest level since 2012.

The entire April 17, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!