"Very difficult" commonwealth policy affected NSW budget

18 June, 2014

The Mike Baird-led Liberal government has left NSW patients high and dry by ignoring the need for increased basic funding to hospitals in its pre-election budget, Opposition Leader John Robertson said in a statement on Tuesday (17 June).

Robertson accused the Baird government of failing to stand up to Tony Abbott's federal budget cuts, effectively falling $550 million short on health spending.

"That means more pressure on everyone who works at our hospitals, because the money is not there," Robertson said.

Delivering the 2014-15 state budget on Tuesday, Treasurer Andrew Constance announced $1.3 billion for building and redevelopment of health facilities including Westmead, Sutherland, St George and Gosford Hospitals. An additional $220 million will be allocated to keep critical patient services previously funded by the commonwealth, along with $24 million for five new ambulance stations.

However AMA (NSW) President, Dr Saxon Smith said the total figure falls far short of growth funding required for the healthcare sector, due in large part to commonwealth funding cuts.

"While the 5.2 per cent increase is in line with past years, the NSW government has had to absorb funding for programs previously funded by the commonwealth government."

Health growth funding must increase: AMA

"Actual growth funding is therefore significantly less than 5.2 per cent," Dr Smith said.

"In our view, health growth funding needs to increase by approximately 7 per cent per annum in order to maintain the current level of services.

"Even allowing for the very difficult circumstances created by the commonwealth Budget, the level of increase is disappointing and will make it difficult to meet the increasing demand for public health services."

On the positive side, Dr Smith said the $4.4 billion commitment to hospital infrastructure over the next four years in the State Budget is warmly welcomed.

"Prior to the 2011 election, the coalition made strong commitments to hospital infrastructure in NSW and I'm pleased to see that they have met those commitments within their first term, as promised."

Dr Smith said that the big challenge for the state's public hospitals is still to come.

"The federal cuts hit hardest from July 2017; in health planning terms, 2017 is tomorrow.

"Health services cannot operate and plan for the future health needs of the community without certainty.

"It is crucial that commonwealth and state governments negotiate the mechanisms for the future of health funding as a matter of urgency."