Budget leaves hospitals short-changed

Treasurer Jim Chalmers released the first budget from the Albanese Government on Tuesday.  Touted as a 'wellbeing' budget, Australians were warned of ‘restrained’ spending and investment.  

While better wages & workplace relations have been a win in the Budget, funding for public hospitals leaves much to be desired.  

In a decision flagged as devastating to the already strained health system, the Government will cease the 50:50 National Partnership on COVID-19 Response on New Years’ Eve this year.  The soon-to-expire deal (in place since May 2020) shares the COVID-related hospital costs equally between federal and state governments.  

The decision is predicted to exacerbate challenges in an already strained healthcare system, and doctors are united in condemning the decision. 

“Healthcare, as we knew it [before the pandemic], is not the healthcare we can expect moving forward"- Dr Nada Hamad told the Guardian. 

With no surge capacity, staff burning out and leaving the system, and another COVID wave on the way, our public hospitals are in dire straits. 

The announcement of $135 million across four years for Urgent Care Clinics take the pressure off hospital emergency departments has also received mixed reviews, with doctors concerned it won’t address the root cause of access block. 

There is some additional modest health care spending in the Budget, Australians living in rural and regional locations are set to benefit from a $185.3 million ‘Rural and Regional Healthcare Package’. The package aims to attract and retain more doctors and allied health professionals to rural communities in need.  $750 million has also been allocated to Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, designed to determine how best to spend to improve access and care for patients. 

In industrial relations, the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 is a win for wage increases, and will deliver changes to workplace relations laws relating to bargaining, job security, gender equity, compliance and enforcement + more.