Media release: Federal budget fails community health services

March 30, 2022

The federal budget has failed to invest in vital health services that keep Victorians healthy and out of hospital care.

CEO of the Victorian Healthcare Association, Tom Symondson, said the Commonwealth Government had missed an opportunity to fund services that help people prevent illness, manage chronic conditions, and avoid expensive hospital treatment.

‘This budget forecasts an outbreak of a new, virulent COVID-19 variant during flu season impacting the economy, but fails to include critical investment in the services that will manage such an outbreak,’ he said.

‘A crucial arm of Victoria’s public health system – the 81 community health services that look after millions of Victorians – has been overlooked.’

Symondson said COVID-19 had hit Victoria harder than any other state or territory and that more federal government support was needed to help its health system meet demand for all types of health care.

‘For two years, Victoria’s community health services have played an enormous role in protecting people from COVID-19, caring for people with COVID-19, and keeping community members out of hospital so that health services could focus on providing acute care,’ he said.

‘This was on top of the work community health services do to provide GP, dental and other allied health care to vulnerable communities. They deserve more Commonwealth funding to help them perform this important work.’

In its pre-budget submission, the VHA called for the Commonwealth Government to:

  • invest in the COVID-19 Positive Pathways program, which serves as a triage pathway between hospitals, community health services and primary care, enabling at-home monitoring and care for COVID-positive patients through the use of telehealth
  • commit to permanent funding of telehealth to make it an enduring feature of our health system
  • extend funding for Victoria’s Head to Health clinics to support primary mental health care
  • increase funding of preventive health care that works towards five per cent of total health expenditure by 2030. The Commonwealth committed to this target in the National Preventive Health Strategy.

‘While the VHA welcomes the government’s ongoing commitment to telehealth, we need more investment in prevention and out-of-hospital care.’

‘We can’t keep building more hospitals and filling them with sick people when we know there are ways to prevent those problems and illnesses in the first place.’

Media can contact Hazel Penfold on 0451 655 443 or hazel.penfold@vha.org.au

Read our Federal Budget member briefing