NSW stands to lose almost $200 million in health funding due to federal cuts, a shortfall the Australian Medical Association warns will be detrimental to emergency departments already struggling to cope with demand.
AMA NSW head Saxon Smith has called for at least 9 per cent – or $1.4 billion – increase in funding in next week’s state budget in order to ”keep the NSW health system going”. ”Anything less than that will cause a standstill,” Dr Smith said.
”We need $191 million to fill the gap left by federal cuts and 7 per cent growth to cover inflation and patient demand. Without it there will be a massive strain on the health system and a bottleneck in emergency departments.”
He said NSW had been the hardest hit by the federal budget, with the government pulling out of national partnership agreements that funded sub-acute beds for rehabilitation, mental health and aged care, and scrapping reward payments for meeting emergency department and elective surgery targets.
It was crucial that at least $100 million contributed in the 2013-14 state budget to fund palliative care and rehabilitation services be continued, he said.
”Our hospitals are at capacity. Bed occupancy is at 95 per cent and there is no give in the system to soak up the extra 7000 admissions we’ve had to emergency departments in the past year.”
Dr Saxon expressed ”deep concern” about how the state government would find the extra funding needed to cover sub-acute beds which are essential in the ”flow of patients out of emergency departments and into the ward”.
The introduction of a $7 GP co-payment would only compound the problem, he said. ”The concern is people will turn up to the emergency department instead.”
This article first appeared on ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 11 June 2014.