Friday, October 17, 2008

Hospital Cash Crisis The Result Of A Decade Of Failure

It’s no secret that public hospitals in New South Wales are under extreme pressure. Stories about various hospitals around the state have been making the front pages for years as the entire health system is increasingly squeezed financially. It’s not that less money is being spent. In fact the health budget continues to grow, but it’s not keeping pace with increasing demand or with increasing costs, and too much of it is soaked up by an inefficient, top-heavy bureaucracy. As time goes by, the impact on actual services provided to the community gets worse.

This week, the people of New South Wales were astounded to learn that Doctors and Nurses at Dubbo Base Hospital are using their own money to buy some supplies, and borrowing others from a local vet. The Area Health Service is guilty of chronic tardiness in paying its bills, to the point where some businesses now refuse to supply the hospital. It has been going on for months, and still the problem has not been fixed. People are entitled to ask what is going on when the State Government cannot pay its bills. This is third world stuff, and there is no excuse for it happening here.

Now we are told that the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital is about to close its women’s health ward, and is likely to also close its children’s ward. There’s no lack of demand for these facilities… this is cost cutting pure and simple. It’s also utterly insane. It’s like General Motors announcing it is not going to build cars anymore because they are too expensive. And it is more evidence that despite the enormous budget allocated to health, the New South Wales Government is simply not competent to manage it.

Adding to the outrageous circumstances of the decline of health care in New South Wales is the bizarre accusation by Bob Carr that Michael Costa is to blame for the financial distress of the State Government. While he is right that Michael Costa must carry the blame for his time as Treasurer, Bob Carr’s observations are a classic case of the pot and the kettle. It was Bob Carr who famously promised to resign if he failed to fix hospital waiting lists. A decade later when he finally carried out that promise the hospital system was well on the road to disaster as a result of the reorganization of Area Health Services which burdened the system with its remote and top heavy bureaucracy.

Since then it has gone from bad to worse, and the current financial crisis will see the State Government’s chickens come home to roost as its failure to invest in infrastructure and services during the good times leaves them completely unequipped to deal with the bad times.

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