Demand for healthcare at all-time high

February 4, 2022

Victoria’s health system has received a much-needed boost from the state government but remains under intense pressure, data released today shows.

“The additional funding announced today will help our ambulance service, hospitals and community health centres meet demand in coming months,” said Tom Symondson, CEO of the Victorian Healthcare Association.

“We are particularly pleased to see nearly $200 million for the COVID-19 Positive Pathways program and some elective surgery resuming. The VHA supports this cautious, incremental approach to more elective surgery to see how it goes before doing more.”

But with a growing elective surgery waiting list, and the potential for more waves of COVID-19 to coincide with a flu season this year, Victoria’s health system is not out of the woods.

“Victorians are experiencing a return to some sense of normality right now, but as January has shown, this could still be an incredibly difficult year for our health system,” said Mr Symondson.

The latest Victorian Health Services Performance report shows Victoria’s system was under extreme pressure during the last three months of 2021, just as the Omicron variant was beginning to spread alongside Delta.

While the number of people attending emergency departments increased modestly by four per cent compared to the previous quarter, there was a surge in critically ill people needing ambulance and emergency department care.

“Ambulance Victoria experienced a 14 per cent jump in the number of people requiring a code one ‘lights and sirens’ response compared to the previous quarter. That’s an extremely challenging spike,” said Mr Symondson.

The report also documents the historic pause on many elective surgery procedures in Victoria, with the fewest surgical procedures reported in a quarterly performance report to date.

“This report shows that the Victorian Government called its Code Brown at the right time. The system was at great risk of collapsing due to staff furloughing in December and that was before a steep rise in COVID-19 hospitalisations,” said Mr Symondson.

The VHA renewed its call for the Commonwealth Government to invest more in Victoria’s health system to help it recover and prepare for what’s to come.

“We want the Commonwealth to return to a 50:50 funding deal with Victoria, whereby the Commonwealth contributes 50 per cent of any annual growth in hospital activity, not 45 per cent as it is doing now,” said Mr Symondson.

“This is not the time to play politics. COVID-19 has hit Victoria harder than any other state or territory.”

“If Victoria’s health system struggled to meet demand in the last quarter of 2021 during a pause on many elective surgery procedures, we need more Commonwealth investment to prepare our system for what’s to come.”

 

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