Tuesday, 16 May 2023


Regional health services

Annabelle CLEELAND

Regional health services

Annabelle CLEELAND (Euroa) (19:04): (163) My adjournment tonight is for the Minister for Health, and the action I seek is for the minister to provide a guarantee that regional Victoria, including my community, will not be impacted by the federal Labor government’s $810 million cut to the state’s health funding. As part of this cut, palliative care funding across aged-care facilities is set to be reduced in regional Victoria.

During a recent tour throughout the Euroa electorate with our Shadow Minister for Health, several healthcare providers made it abundantly clear there are genuine concerns about their funding under this government. We are seeing out-of-control surgery waitlists. For category 1 surgeries, which are the most urgent, the statewide waitlist has increased by over 45 per cent in just three months. It is up as far as 140 per cent at Bendigo. At Albury Wodonga Health, elective surgery waitlists are up to three times longer than major metro hospitals. We have a failing 000 system. Over the last quarter just 65 per cent of ambulances arrived on time in code 1 emergencies, despite target ranges of 85 to 90 per cent and a decrease in the demand for these services. Not a single Ambulance Victoria target is being met in the LGAs of Mitchell, Benalla, Strathbogie or Greater Bendigo for code 1 emergencies. These are not just numbers, these are people’s lives.

Regional Victoria falls well short of national averages for critical health professionals, including dentists, mental health professionals, Indigenous health practitioners and medical radiation practitioners. We have staff shortages and a government that neglects our country hospitals and healthcare providers. It is devastating that we are now expecting up to 15 per cent to be cut from community and grassroots health prevention programs when next week’s budget is announced. These community health services involve critical programs that address chronic disease and contributing factors, including smoking, vaping, disability exclusion, unhealthy eating, family violence prevention and physical inactivity. These services prevent Victorians from requiring hospital visits, helping to ease the burden on our already struggling hospitals.

Our health services in Benalla, Seymour, Kilmore, Euroa, Heathcote, Nagambie and so many more do not deserve to have their programs ripped from them. This counter-productive and short-sighted budget cut is only going to increase the strain for the many regional Victorians who both provide and rely on these services. By the government’s own admission, people living in our regional areas already have much poorer health outcomes than other Victorians. Access to quality health care should not be determined by where you live. It is a fundamental right that should be guaranteed to all individuals. Our health system is under strain and continues to fail patients in regional Victoria when they are at their most vulnerable, and that is simply not acceptable. I ask the minister to urgently and effectively address the disparity in healthcare services between – (Time expired)