Bendigo MP Steve Gibbons has denied the Federal Labor Government is completely responsible for funding cuts to state hospital budgets saying federal health funding is at a record high.
Victorian Health Minister David Davis last week told hospitals to plan for multimillion-dollar budget cuts over the next seven months. He blamed the federal government for refusing to back down on plans to slash $106.7 million from Victorian hospital budgets this financial year.
This afternoon Bendigo Health CEO John Mulder confirmed drastic federal funding cuts will reduce its monthly operating grants by $500,000 for the the rest of the financial year at least, resulting in staff redundancies.
"The plan to cope with the cuts has not yet been finalised but it will include significant bed closures, cuts to elective surgery over the remaining months of the year, staff being forced to take annual leave over periods where services are closed and staff redundancies to make up the remainder of the shortfall, " he said.
"Bendigo Health will also place a freeze on all new staff appointments and avoid expenditure on new equipment and supplies wherever possible."
The Bendigo Advertiser reported earlier that elective surgery waiting lists were likely to ''explode'' due to the funding cuts and Mr Mulder said Bendigo Health's emergency department would also be affected.
"With bed numbers reduced, the waiting list will increase rapidly and the gains that we have made in moving people through ED to an inpatient bed in recent years will be lost almost immediately."
But Mr Gibbons says hospital CEO's have been told to blame the Commonwealth by the Baillieu Government and that potential ward closures are normal at this time of year.
“The real story here is that states' growth forecasts have been revised based on a formula Premier Baillieu himself signed up to," he said.
“Because Victoria’s population has not grown as quickly as expected, and health inflation is not as great as expected, the Commonwealth contribution will not grow as much as the Baillieu Government would like.
“The Gillard Government has increased funding for Victoria’s growing health needs and David Davis' claims are simply an effort to deflect attention from his own savage cuts.
“The recent Commonwealth budget update confirmed health funding in Victoria will increase by 26% over the next four years, from $3.6 billion in 2012-13 to $4.5 billion in 2015–16. That’s an additional $900 million."
Mr Mulder slammed the cuts calling them "unacceptable".
"Each year Bendigo Health signs a contract with Government whereby we commit to provide an agreed number and range of services in return for an agreed payment. We can’t recall any Government moving the goal posts half way through the year previously.
"Bendigo Health is of the view that this announcement is extremely unfair for our nurses, doctors, other staff and for our patients.
"My team works tirelessly to provide high quality care and they, and the communities that they serve, deserve better.
"We are given only a few days notice and expected to deliver almost $3 million in savings over the next six months; it’s totally unacceptable and I ask our local Federal Member Steve Gibbons to do everything within his power to have this decision reversed.
"I understand the different political views around this subject, but one thing is certain, it is our staff and our community who are the big losers this time."
Mr Gibbons said it was in fact the state government who needed to explain themselves.
“Ted Baillieu and David Davis need to explain to Victorians why at a time of record Federal health funding to Victoria, they have allowed Victoria’s elective surgery waiting list to blow out. These figures come before the adjustment they are complaining about and they should apologise to Victorians for failing them."