Plibersek returns health funds in form of 'rescue package'
AFTER the Federal Government backed down on a $107 million health funding cut for Victoria on Thursday, the same reprieve was unlikely to be extended to Queensland or New South Wales.
Last year, the Commonwealth removed about $1.2 billion in health funding from all states and territories after revised population growth figures were released.
In Queensland and NSW, the cut equated to a shortfall of about $387 million and $601 million in funding respectively, which was previously promised in the Federal Government's May 2012 budget.
The funding cut sparked a row between the state and territory government and the Commonwealth, which was reignited on Thursday after Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek decided to return some funds to Victoria.
But Ms Plibersek told reporters in Melbourne the returned funding was a "rescue package" and rather than being given to the state government, would be instead directed to local health boards.
While the $107 million will be returned to health services in Victoria, the state was still down about $370 million on the budgeted payments from May last year.
Ms Plibersek and Prime Minister Julia Gillard said they wanted to stop the political blame game over health funding.
But Ms Gillard had previously written to the state premiers threatening to terminate the national funding agreement if the states continued campaigns against the funding cuts.
That agreement included a funding formula which included population figures, health price inflation and a technology calculation as well.
But the use of the funding formula, particularly the population figures which are subject to revision, resulted in the $1.2 billion shortfall in Commonwealth payments to the states.
Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the state was missing out of the returned funding, of about $103 million this year.
"Queensland has been denied equal treatment, because Mr Swan thinks he can get away with anything by blaming the Newman Government," he said.
"All we want is certainty around funding - were just saying don't give us money and the start of the year then take it away at the end of the year.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the returned funding to Victoria, after the previous cuts to all states, was a "most bizarre arrangement".
"Doing this strange deal with Victoria alone does not absolve the Commonwealth of its responsibility to honour funding commitments across the nation," she said.
"And so today I call on the federal government to ensure equity across the nation."
The Australian Medical Association also welcomed the return of some funds to Victoria, but called on the Federal Government to do the same in other jurisdictions.
AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton said it was important to increase funding in all states where funding cuts by both levels of government may have led to reduced services.
"The bottom line is that no government should be cutting money from their health budgets, especially when they are under enormous pressure to meet demand as they are right now," he said.
"Health needs funding increases, not cuts, but we cannot maintain the band-aid approach to hospital funding.
"We need to see greater cooperation between our governments to get the best possible outcome for people who are who are experiencing long waits for surgery or who are injured and need to get into emergency."