Providing a voice for the sector

The Policy and Advocacy team strengthened its policy program and busy reform agenda by working in new and agile ways to advocate strategically for members across a range of issues of significance to the sector. The team continued to work closely with members to provide a proactive and compelling voice in multiple submissions. These were actioned alongside sector-wide responses to natural disasters and a global pandemic, while continuing to address operational practicalities including infrastructure and workforce challenges.

Member consultations informed sector-focused submissions to a range of inquiries at State and Federal levels. These included multiple submissions to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System and the ongoing Royal Commission into Aged Care, focusing on quality and safety and the sustainable financing of the system. These complemented our activities promoting ‘good news’ media stories and influencing the future design of aged care.

Graphic summary of 2nd Mental Health Sector Forum provided by Deloitte.

With mental health reform an ongoing core focus for the sector, the VHA collaborated with Mental Health Victoria to provide a joint response to the Productivity Commission’s report on Australia’s mental health system and how people with or at risk of mental ill-health can reach their potential in life. This relationship was further extended through the introduction of the Mental Health Sector Forums, co-hosted by the two organisations and funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. During this period, the VHA co-hosted two sector forums including an online briefing from the Minister for Mental Health.

The VHA joined other community and healthcare organisations in challenging the Religious discrimination bill. The group called on the federal government to ensure no part of the bill privileged religious interest above the interest of other Australians. This advocacy campaign was the result of close collaboration with multiple stakeholders to ensure safe and high-quality healthcare for all Australians without discrimination.

The VHA continues to take an active role in shaping system reform through its policy work with metropolitan and regional services, looking to the future sustainability of the system. This includes exploring ways in which digital health solutions emerging from the pandemic can be leveraged to generate improved integration and efficiencies.

Mirroring the health sector’s innovative responses to natural disasters and COVID-19 we re-evaluated how best to assist the sector during this unparalleled time by supporting services in bushfire affected areas and rapidly actioning virtual engagement and collaboration opportunities.

The Sector Insights, Innovations and Ideas campaign gathered the experiences and learnings from across the sector, and across the state, as individuals and organisations responded to the pandemic. Speaking individually with members and hosting targeted forums specific to aged care, innovation, workforce, leadership, governance and crisis preparedness amidst the COVID-19 response, we have been fortunate to record and share learnings from this unique moment in time. Our findings reflect the tenacity of the dedicated health workforce and have enabled us to support the evolving needs of the sector and, more broadly, the community to maintain momentum through each pandemic ‘wave’. This work has been translated into action by presenting our findings to the government’s Health Services Pandemic Leadership Team and will inform the next phases of the pandemic response.

With continued strain on the health system, the approach to advocating for state and federal funding extended beyond the traditional budget cycles to ensure emerging financial challenges did not prevent the delivery of world-class healthcare for all Victorians. Applying a strategic approach, the VHA strengthened relations with government leaders including politicians and public sector officials. This engagement resulted in regular briefings to key ministers on behalf of members and access to key information to support members in making informed decisions.

Although this year presented significant trials for the sector and highlighted the depth of challenges already existing within the system, the VHA’s policy and advocacy work continues to deliver meaningful change towards a more resilient and sustainable health system.