Extra graduate places welcome but health budget falls short on delivering for Victorians

Wednesday 8th May, 2013

The Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) has welcomed the Napthine Government's decision to reinstate the previous government's funding for graduate nursing and midwifery positions and then provide for a further 80 positions each financial year.

This year 800 nursing and midwifery graduates missed out on a graduate year place, which prevents them from working in the health system into the future.

Under this government the number of Victorian nurse and midwife graduate places dropped to 1318 in 2011-12 and 1335 in 2012-13 despite Health Workforce Australia forecasts of a national shortage of 110,000 nurses by 2025.

Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: "These additional places will come as a relief to many, but not all. Students in their final undergraduate year are rightly worried about whether they will be able to start their nursing or midwifery career next year."

"However other elements of the budget are disturbing," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

Growth in health services funding was at 5.9 per cent in 2011-12, 4.7 per cent in 2012-13 and has only increased by a miniscule 0.1 per cent, now 4.8 per cent in 2013-14.

"We had hoped to see the Napthine Government keep its election promise to provide $21 million dedicated to providing security officers," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

"A further 49,000 patients are expected to present to our emergency departments and there's only an additional $2.5 million to meet the demand. With only 65 per cent of our patients being treated within the four hour timeframe, I'm worried this will result in more violent outbursts from patients or relatives and ultimately further threaten nurses' safety at work," she said.

Disappointingly it would seem funding has only been made available to increase WIES (episodes of care) by 2000 elective surgeries from the 2011-12 level of 1,068,000 to 1,070,000 in 2013-14.

"This will be little comfort to category 2 and 3 patients who have been waiting on our growing waiting list," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

"Our maternal and child health nurses also continue to see more vulnerable Victorian families each year, without adequate growth in their funding to provide this essential service," she said.

The budget papers also reveal the growth in Federal Government funding with an additional $172.5 million in 2013-14, resulting in the Victorian government contributing only $3.8 million to the" Securing Victoria's health system-treating more patients" initiative.

In addition the Napthine Government will cut a further $209.6 million from the health system over the next five financial years, which is in addition to the $616 million announced in previous budgets.

"Vulnerable new families have also been left waiting for specialised mental health services with funding re-announcements for regional mother and baby units without timeframes for when these services will be available," Ms Fitzpatrick.

"Every budget since 2011 we have seen the Government announce with great fanfare funding to deliver urgently-needed five-bed mother baby units in Ballarat and Bendigo to care for new mothers with postnatal depression and other mental health disorders," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

"We were told in the last budget that three five-bed units "will be delivered" and now we're told that they are still coming," she said.

"Unfortunately, none of these units are operational and this week Ballarat Health Services could not confirm whether it had received its funding allocation for its mother baby unit, when the unit would open or where the unit would be located," she said.

"Disappointingly the Napthine Government provides misleading information to Victorians when it includes these 15 mental health beds in its new bed numbers despite the fact they are not built and they are not operational," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

Whilst the Federal Government has provided $7.8 million to build 12 psychiatric assessment planning unit beds in three health services, ANF welcomes the Napthine Government's announcement that it provide funding to staff the beds.

"However, we hope the Napthine Government will listen to health providers and ensure that the fund for staff is adequate, as it has not been in the past," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

ANF welcomes the capitol works announcements for new mental health beds at Werribee Mercy Hospital along with the reinstatement of services at the Numurkah Hospital devastated by the March 2012 floods.

Contact details
Robyn Asbury
Media & PR Officer
Ph: 03 9275 9333
Mobile: 0417 523 252