Health Services Amendment (Health Purchasing Victoria) Bill 2012 (21.02.2013)

Written on the 7 March 2013

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am also pleased to rise to speak on the Health Services Amendment (Health Purchasing Victoria) Bill 2012, and I am pleased that those opposite also support the bill. As has been highlighted, the bill amends the Health Services Act 1988 to expand the range of health or related services in relation to which Health Purchasing Victoria performs functions and exercises powers to include registered community health centres and women's health services. As Mr Scheffer and Ms Hartland have said, those two sectors do a great service to the Victorian community in a number of areas. As someone who has worked in women's health for 10 years, I concur as to the tremendous work they do. I am therefore very pleased that these two areas have been provided for in this very sensible piece of legislation.

 

The bill enables a much more streamlined procurement process. Victoria's public hospitals spend more than $1.6 billion, or approximately 14 per cent of total hospital expenditure, each year to procure supplies and consumables.

 

Health Purchasing Victoria contracts cover approximately 23 per cent of the total $1.6 billion spend on supplies and consumables.

 

In the area I represent, Southern Metropolitan Region, there are a number of important community health centres that provide crucial maternal and preventive health services. As someone who has worked in the area of chronic disease, specifically in the area of diabetes management, I understand very clearly the significant impact and importance of the work that is conducted by clinicians and other people who work in those areas. Chronic disease is a significant problem for our health services, our community and of course for our overall health budget. I am pleased that there are a number of terrific health centres right across the region that are doing significant work, not only in that area but in other areas of maternal health and chronic disease. They include Bayside Health, Bentleigh Bayside Community Health, Inner South Community Health Service and MonashLink Community Health Service, and all provide tremendous service.

 

I am pleased that the minister has been able to look at this. I know that this was part of the strategic goal that he highlighted that came out of the Auditor-General's 2011 report entitled Procurement Practices in the Health Sector. Six significant areas were highlighted. This bill addresses some of those areas. I will not go through what they are; I think they are pretty straightforward. I just want to make a couple of comments in relation to the minister's ability in this area, because not only has he taken the lead in identifying those areas and putting together a plan and a strategic framework around what needs to be done here in Victoria but he has also stood up for Victorian patients.

 

That has been demonstrated in the last few months after the preposterous cut to hospital funding that was imposed by the Gillard government in conjunction with the federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and the federal health minister, Tanya Plibersek. They took $107 million out of the Victorian health service budgets midway through the financial year based on some adjustments to population figures which we know hinged on an absolutely ridiculous assumption. Newspaper headlines prove that. Today's Herald Sun contains an article titled 'Prime Minister Julia Gillard reverses Labor's Victorian hospital funding cuts', and the Age has published an article titled 'PM backtracks on hospital cash cut'. I am pleased that there is finally acknowledgement at a federal level; even Senator Richard Di Natale states in the Herald Sun that:

 

It appears that the government manipulated ABS data to justify the cuts.

 

I would have to agree with Senator Di Natale.

 

Mr Finn -- Don't do it again.

 

Ms CROZIER -- I advise Mr Finn that I have to agree with Senator Di Natale on this occasion only because I think it was absolutely preposterous to say that we had a reduction in population. Minister Davis should be commended for the work he has done in arguing this case so effectively, standing up for Victorian patients and going in to bat for health services. The fact is that hospitals, health services and Victorian patients knew this was an absolutely ridiculous assumption. To have the leader of the handbag hit squad, Ms Plibersek, coming up with that pathetic criticism of the Baillieu government yesterday was as pathetic as the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, assuming that the population had decreased in Victoria. She should take a leaf out of the book of her friend Ms Roxon, the former federal Attorney-General, who was another member of the handbag hit squad, and take a walk. Ms Plibersek's credibility on this issue has been shot.

 

Minister Davis's standing up for Victorian patients has been proved, and that will be absolutely welcomed by health services, Victorians and hospitals.

 

Nevertheless, the funding cut will still have an impact and will continue to have some ongoing effects on hospitals and health services. The cut was made and health services had to adjust their management processes accordingly. As somebody who has worked in the health system I understand the complexity and difficulty of going through that process. The level of funding was agreed to by the federal and state governments, and health budgets were set. When budgets are set they should not be cut midway through a financial year.

 

In my own area of Southern Metropolitan Region those cuts were going to have a significant impact on two major health services that cater for a large population of Victoria.

 

The funding shortfall was to be over $7 million for Alfred Health, and for Southern Health, which includes Monash Medical Centre, the funding shortfall would have been in excess of $13 million. That is a direct cut to patient services, and patients know that there are now increased waiting lists because of the decisions made by hospitals that have had to restructure their management systems. We have heard what has been happening over the last few months.

 

I am pleased that the Victorian government has fought hard against the federal government's cuts, which were absolutely brutal and unjustified; there is no doubt about that. I particularly want to pay tribute to the hospital boards' clinicians and the communities that fought for their hospitals and patients on this matter. They absolutely know it was a ridiculous assumption on the part of federal Treasurer Wayne Swan to cut the budget based on a reduction in population.

 

However, we still have a long way to go, because those cuts of over $107 million were for this financial year, and we still need to fight for a further $368 million over the next three years. I am sure the Minister for Health, Mr Davis, along with Premier Baillieu, who have taken the lead on this, will be arguing our case and wanting to get that money back into hospital services to assist Victorian patients.

 

Again I say that I am pleased those opposite are not opposing the bill. I again commend the minister for his work in this portfolio area. The amendments will make a sensible adjustment to community and maternal health services across Victoria. I also again commend him on the work he has done to force the federal Labor government to backtrack on its cuts to the Victorian health budget in this financial year.


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