Budget neglect of community health will lead to more hospital admissions

Released on 27th May 2019

The absence of any new funding for community health services in this year’s budget will lead to increased burden on hospitals, particularly from vulnerable Victorians, says one of Victoria’s leading not-for-profit health providers.

cohealth’s Chief Executive, Lyn Morgain, said, “People on low incomes struggle to access the health care they need and their health problems snowball. Intervening early with properly funded community-based care can often prevent hospital admissions further down the track.

“We are disappointed that this Budget again fails to respond to the important preventative role of community health.”

“As population soars, and inequality rises, community health services are groaning under the weight of demand from those on low incomes, but funding has not kept pace.”

“It is encouraging to see the State Budget includes $2.5 billion of investment in Victorian hospitals and health systems which respond to acute care needs. Now we need to work on bolstering community-based care so that vulnerable Victorians can avoid ending up in hospital.”

“The health system is currently skewed to managing sickness rather than encouraging wellness. That needs to change.”

Ms Morgain also said that temporary funding of community managed mental health was causing problems with workforce retention and forward planning.

“Stopgap funding our growing mental health problem is like trying to drive a car with the handbrake on. It’s risky, inefficient and you don’t get very far.

“We can’t pre-empt the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Mental Health, but while that process is underway, we need at least $200 million over four years to keep the wheels turning and provide high-quality psychosocial rehabilitation and support.”

Although cohealth congratulated the Government on the $42.7 million for preventing incarceration and rehabilitation and reintegration programs post-release, it slammed the State Government’s announcement of $1.8b in prisons investment.

“That money would be far better spent tackling the issues underlying incarceration; poverty, a lack of affordable housing, family violence.”

The majority of investments in the 2019-20 State Budget were delivering on commitments made during the November election period, including:

  • $321.9m for a free dental van program for all government school students
  • Funding the initial stages of ten new community hospitals
  • A suite of support services and programs for new parents

cohealth also welcomes the newly announced $3 million over 12 months to help plug the gaps left by cuts to the Status Resolution Support Service which previously supported asylum seekers in the community.

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