Public hospitals left high and dry in Budget

26-May-2021

The 2021-22 Federal Budget includes $121.4 billion in national health spending in the next financial year.

Despite record investment, Australia’s public hospitals have been short-changed. While our public hospital system is struggling meet the overwhelming demand of a growing and ageing population, the Budget lacked much needed funding for Australia’s public hospitals. The Federal Budget acknowledges that Australia will be opening its borders in 2022 to the threat of COVID-19, however we do not have a health system that is prepared for opening again. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how important frontline doctors and health services are. Serious investment and support for public hospitals is needed to ensure they are properly staffed and resourced.

The aged care sector will receive a much needed $18 billion boost over five years. However, the measures have been criticised as piecemeal and inadequate by health experts. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommended a "landmark Australian social policy reform" that would guarantee well trained and well-paid staff overseen by a transparent independent auditor. Unfortunately, the Government has neglected this recommendation, with the announcement falling short of the vision required to improve a system in crisis.

Rural doctors have welcomed the recognition by the Federal government of the need to better support smaller rural, remote and regional comminates across Australia. The Federal Budget announced more funding for the John Flynn Prevocational Doctor Training Program (formerly the Rural Junior Doctor Training Innovation Fund), from 110 full-time equivalent (FTE) junior doctor places in 2022 to 200 FTE places by 2025. However, rural doctors have said the number of training places need to double again in the coming years to enable junior doctors to undertake training in rural areas. The Budget also announced an additional $49.4 million to support increased palliative care and dementia care in MMM 2-7 locations.

A further $2.3 billion was allocated to mental health services over four years, although doctors have suggested that won't be enough to alleviate the stress and pressures caused by the COVID pandemic and recent national disasters.