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Cuts to health NPAs undermine progress

Posted 30 July 2015

Thursday 30 July 2015

The Victorian Healthcare Association (VHA) has today vented its frustration on the unreliable nature of national partnership agreements (NPAs) due to successive federal governments consistently pulling the plug early, amending or cancelling them altogether.

In its submission to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) on the impact NPAs have to government service delivery, the VHA notes that the uncertainty of NPA funding puts the standards of health service delivery at jeopardy.

“According to the 2009 Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations the objective of the agreement was to provide fair and sustainable financial arrangements to facilitate long term policy development and enhanced government service delivery,” VHA CEO Tom Symondson said.

“However federal governments have undermined this objective repeatedly by making changes without consulting the states or making any provisions for filling the gaps they have created. And this only adds to the pressures felt during this current environment of funding uncertainty.

“It has come to a point where the health sector cannot make future plans based on NPAs because they cannot depend on the funds to actually be there to support vital programs and services.

“NPAs are designed to deliver services where there is an identified need. Unfortunately when they prematurely lapse, fundamentally change or run their course without a continuity plan progress is often rapidly lost.

“Following the deferral of the second dental NPA we are already seeing waiting times for general dental care returning to pre-NPA levels, from 10 months in the 2014 January to March quarter to more than 12 months in the same period this year.

“The Healthy Together program, funded under the prevention NPA, is one of the most tragic examples where terrific programs that were getting to the core of health problems at the community level will lose out on significant funding in the future.

“This is completely nonsensical given prevention activities actually save money in the long-term.

“We call for a bipartisan commitment at the federal level to honour the agreed terms of NPAs and where NPAs have shown considerable success, continuing funding should be in place to support the ongoing delivery of those services.”

The VHA’s submission to the PAEC inquiry can be viewed here.

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