Hospital cuts to close beds, delay surgery

VICTORIAN hospitals will slash elective surgery and extend Christmas bed closures for up to six months due to a $107 million reduction in federal funding.

In a memo to staff on Friday, Southern Health chief executive Shelly Park said she had been forced to make tough decisions to find $13.6 million in savings.

''To meet this reduction in funding we have identified that we will need to reduce elective surgery by up to 1800 cases - with [a] flow-on effect on beds and theatre closures,'' Ms Park said. ''In addition we will need to close a 26-bed ward at Clayton … At this stage no decision has been made on which ward will close.''

Southern Health had 8620 patients on its elective surgery waiting lists on June 30, including at the Casey and Dandenong hospitals and Monash Medical Centre's Clayton and Moorabbin campuses.

At Western Health, chief executive Alex Cockram said a $6.46 million cut could affect up to 1300 patients waiting for elective surgery at the Western (Footscray), Sunshine and Williamstown hospitals.

Western Health had 3189 patients on its elective surgery waiting lists at June 30.

''Their operations will need to be rescheduled and this will cause unavoidable increases in waiting times,'' Associate Professor Cockram said.

A spokeswoman for Western Health said about 110 beds would be closed as part of a planned slowdown for between one and three weeks over Christmas, but up to 70 beds would remain closed until the end of June due to the cuts.

Details of the impact at Southern and Western Health follow the Royal Melbourne Hospital this week confirming that it will double from three to six weeks planned Christmas closures of an operating theatre and 45 beds.

The hospital is also considering closing a 25-bed ward from February 4 until the end of June due to a $8.4 million cut to its budget this financial year.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Melbourne Hospital said staff affected by the bed closures would be redeployed and ''at this point in time there has been no discussion about job losses''.

The cuts follow a funding adjustment by the federal government based on new population data from last year's census.

The federal government has said that overall funding for Victorian hospitals is increasing despite the $107 million write-down, and accuses the state government of using the issue as a smokescreen to distract from its own budget cuts.

Victorian Healthcare Association chief executive Trevor Carr said hospitals normally reduced elective surgery and closed beds in a planned slowdown for two to three weeks over Christmas but the public would feel the full effect of the cuts from mid-January. ''That's when people who have surgeries scheduled will start getting notified that they won't be able to proceed,'' he said.

Mr Carr said the state government needed to step in with extra funding to help hospitals maintain services.

The story Hospital cuts to close beds, delay surgery first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide