Victoria’s community health platform well-positioned to take pressure off acute system

March 16, 2020

The Victorian Healthcare Association welcomes the proposed actions put forward as part of the Victorian Government’s Community Health Reform Plan, saying it represents an important opportunity to better leverage the community health platform as a key partner in an under pressure system but says that it doesn’t go far enough on workforce or use of technology.

Chief Executive of the VHA, Tom Symondson, says the plan, which highlights three key priority areas and a roadmap for action to 2024, rightly highlights opportunities to better position community health to respond to health challenges.

‘Due to a number of well-established factors, including an ageing population and greater incidence of chronic disease, our acute health system has been under more pressure than ever before. When we add to that mix a global pandemic and the anticipated pressures associated with other threats such as climate change and antimicrobial resistance, it is essential that we leverage this unique platform to help alleviate demand pressures from the acute system, transitioning care to community settings and to peoples’ homes.’

Mr Symondson says that it is concerning that the reform plan is largely silent on crucial areas such as workforce planning and use of technology.

‘We cannot afford to be complacent in this area by continuing to imagine that our current approaches to workforce will hold us in good stead into the future.

‘For some time, the VHA has been calling for a state-wide health workforce plan to ensure we have an efficient and effective workforce to deliver care in very different ways into the future. We are already seeing this actioned in Europe and the United States.’

Mr Symondson says that while the recommendation for more GP-led models of care is important in relation to access, many rural and regional Victorian health services struggle to access the general practitioner workforce.

‘We know that we do not have a shortage of general practitioners but we do have an issue with maldistribution. So, we need to consider alternative workforce models and the role that technology will have in delivering care in very different ways.

While the reform plan outlines cyber security capability as a priority, it does not provide any certainty regarding digital and ICT infrastructure investments or support for digital transformation as a mechanism to shift care away from the acute setting, support the delivery of integrated care and partnerships, or shift the system from a curative to a preventative model of care,’ Mr Symondson says.

The Community health reform plan is the Victorian Government’s response to the Community Health Taskforce report, presented to government in mid-2019. The Community Health Taskforce was established in response to the 2018 Community Health Program audit by the Victorian Auditor General’s Office.