STAFF at Castlemaine Health will find out in the coming weeks the full impact of budget cuts that are likely to cost jobs and extend surgery waiting times.
Castlemaine Health chief executive Ian Fisher said the funding shortfall was a “major challenge” the hospital was still working through.
He said a redistribution of finances would be finalised and put to the board by the end of February, which could cost jobs.
“We want to maintain staffing levels as much as we can,” he said.
“But at this stage we’re not in a position where we are able to say that everyone’s position is safe.”
A freeze on hiring new employees and forcing staff to take annual leave days were also possibilities being considered by management, Mr Fisher said.
The changes to funding allocations were announced in December, during plans to begin a $10 million redevelopment of the hospital.
Mr Fisher said the $246,000 budget reduction was unexpected and couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“It’s probably made the problem a bit more difficult and complicated because we are closing our surgery theatres anyway,” he said.
“From that point of view it’s a little bit different to other organisations because we’re already in a situation where we’re closing services for nine months. But we’re looking to the future.
“We’re still trying to get a longer term view of the hospital’s needs and it’s a great opportunity to determine how the development can shape how the hospital looks in years to come.”
Despite being behind schedule, Mr Fisher said he was confident the redevelopment would make significant improvements to the hospital’s surgery department.
“The process is a little bit behind, but it’s a 39-week build, so whoever gets the work then the clock starts ticking,” he said.
Mr Fisher said the indications were that the works would be under way in February and should be complete by the end of the year.
He said the “shock” budget cuts announced last December still loomed for staff, but he was hopeful there would be minimal impact on the way the hospital operated.
“The major issue was that it was unexpected,” he said. “There’s a lot of emphasis on financial management and that makes it that much tougher.”