The most health orientated budget in memory

November 26, 2020

VHA board member Dr Leslie Reti AM shares his thoughts on the 2020-21 State budget and says the headline health budget of $31 billion, up 21.3 per cent from last year, is a huge investment.

Read the VHA’s budget analysis here

What’s your overall impression of this year’s budget?

This is the most health orientated budget in memory. Appropriate for a year dominated by the pandemic and its fallout. With a headline health budget of $31 billion, up 21.3 per cent from last year, it is a huge investment.

What was the key area of funding you were hoping to see in the budget? And did you see the level of investment needed?

In addition to the amount allocated, I think the distribution has been about right. We were anxious to see a significant boost to public health. With $1.18 billion budgeted, that is a 202.9 per cent increase on last year. That rises to $2.9 billion when you consider the Commonwealth’s contribution. I was also keen to see an appropriate increase in funding for Family Violence Service Delivery. It has risen 63.7 per cent to $439.20 million, which is terrific.

What investment in this year’s budget is most relevant to your part of the healthcare sector?

It is the spend on acute health services. This year it’s been increased by 16.3 per cent. Last year the increase was only 4 per cent. There is $300 million alone for an elective surgery blitz to catch up the deferred cases from the COVID-19 cancellations. There are also significant investments in much needed capital expenditure with funding to support the redevelopment and expansion of Frankston Hospital, Latrobe Regional Hospital and Angliss Hospital, and others.

What has most surprised you about this year’s State budget?

Perhaps not surprised but it reinforced the challenge of Aged Care funding being split between the State and the Commonwealth. Victoria’s public aged care sector has been given an additional $38.6 million in budget initiatives in the coming year to improve or build facilities. However, to address the critical issue of introducing minimum staff-to-resident ratios we must wait until February, when the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety hands down its final recommendation to the Commonwealth Government.

Besides health, what other areas of the budget are you most interested in and what’s the link with healthcare?

Recognising the social determinants of health, the projected high unemployment rate and low wage growth will have detrimental health effects. On the other side of the scales, there is $2.12 billion being spent on Mental Health services, $1.7 billion on Child Protection and Family Services, $805 million on concessions to pensioners and beneficiaries and $117 million on ‘empowering individuals and communities’.