Media release: Federal budget fails Victorian hospitals

March 30, 2022

The Commonwealth Government has failed to deliver fairer funding of Victorian public hospitals and address workforce shortages at a critical moment during the pandemic.

CEO of the Victorian Healthcare Association, Tom 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.

‘Victorian hospitals have done a terrific job of treating the sickest patients as quickly as possible since COVID-19 arrived. However, they remain under extraordinary pressure with record numbers of people waiting for elective surgery and other specialist care,’ he said.

‘At the same time workforce shortages are limiting how many patients can be treated. Border closures, staff furloughing and burnout have exacerbated a historical shortage of staff in Victoria over the past two years. Many healthcare workers are exhausted and I fear more will leave the sector this year.’

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

  • the Commonwealth Government to step up and fund 50 per cent of the cost of public hospitals with no growth cap to recognise the increasing costs of COVID-19
  • changes to streamline immigration pathways for healthcare workers to come to Australia and stay here longer
  • more investment in mental health services and other community care to keep people well and out of hospital.

Mr Symondson welcomed investment to support the delivery of care in rural and regional areas, but said none of this would ease the pressure on Victorian hospitals as they prepare for their first winter with both flu and COVID-19 in the community.

‘This budget has overlooked the urgent need to make sure Australia does not get caught up in a worsening global shortage of qualified healthcare workers. You only have to look at job ads to know there are vacancies in every health service,’ he said.

‘Historically, immigration has played an important role in bolstering our healthcare workforce, so services have enough staff to care for people in a timely way.’

Mr Symondson said the current hospital funding agreement means the Commonwealth continues to contribute much less than 50 per cent of public hospital costs in Victoria, which was not fair during a once-in-a-century pandemic.

‘The funding model has been too slow to respond to the increased costs of COVID-19, and if it continues in its current form, it will be difficult for our hospitals to catch up and recover,’ he said.

‘We also need more investment in prevention and community health services to keep Victorians healthy and well. We cannot continue to build more hospitals and fill them with sick people, when we know there are ways to prevent those problems and illnesses in the first place.’

The Victorian Healthcare Association is the peak body for Victoria’s public health sector, including public hospitals, aged care and community health services.

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

Read our Federal Budget member briefing