Victoria must invest in community health and workforce recovery

February 11, 2021

With Victoria slowly emerging from its COVID-19 response, the VHA is calling on the Victorian Government to make a significant investment in its healthcare workforce, the community health sector and sector-wide activities to ensure the ‘new normal’ for the sector is strengthened, modern and resilient into the future.

The first focus area of the VHA’s pre-budget submission is health workforce recovery and long-term sustainability. With the pandemic exacerbating regular stresses experienced by Victorian healthcare professionals, the VHA is calling for an immediate systemic response by investing $120 million over three years to support health and community health services embed and scale new models of care and workforce models that reduce the drivers of anxiety, depression and burnout including implementing research findings of the Healthcare Worker Wellbeing Centre.

The pandemic has also reinforced the importance of developing our health workforce across all parts of Victoria – beyond metropolitan Victoria. The VHA is seeking a $20 million investment over four years, commencing from 2021-22, to design and implement a rural health workforce strategy to address the issues of recruitment, training and development of health professionals to create a sustainable rural workforce model.

While community health has continued to play a critical role in the pandemic response as well as broader healthcare issues, there was limited investment in the 2020-21 budget. To support the important work of the community health sector, the VHA is calling on dedicated funding to establish and resource registered community health representative groups or subcommittees aligned to each health service cluster. The aim of these groups is to support decision-making and collaboration in parallel to health service cluster implementation. A further $100 million investment is being sought to support essential upgrades, strengthen the digital capability and safeguard the infrastructure needs of registered community health services.

With greater integration of services being a ‘silver lining’ of the pandemic, the VHA is calling on investment to support cluster reform and integration of care. An investment of $180 million, over four years is required to implement innovative, locally led models of integrated care across the state and deliver improved health outcomes for all Victorians.

The budget must also include additional funding to catch up on deferred treatments including dental care. Ongoing dental funding for Victorians already on public dental waitlists is also required along with an investment in new or upgraded public dental capital to increase capacity for service delivery and reduce wait times.

Finally, to retain and expand the universal benefits of digital healthcare realised during the pandemic, the VHA calls on the Victorian Government to commit to a five-year rolling plan of investment in digital health and ICT capabilities to achieve an equal baseline of digital capability across the system.

Read the full pre-budget submission here