The Health News – 13 March 2014

Overview

  • In NSW, the state health minister has not ruled out private operation of a new Maitland hospital being built at Metford. There is ongoing concern as to how the new facility will be managed and if it will eventually be operated by a private party.
  • In Victoria, a Macedon Ranges community health care provider has revealed long-term federal funding cuts have forced the organisation to rethink their operations.
  • In the ACT, the acting director-general of health Dr Paul Kelly yesterday announced the commencement of the Health Food and Drink Choices Policy for ACT Health.

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No funding model set for new Maitland hospital – no author litsed
In NSW, the state health minister has not ruled out private operation of a new Maitland hospital being built at Metford. There is ongoing concern as to how the new facility will be managed and if it will eventually be operated by a private party. Local nurses attended a meeting at Maitland last night to voice their concerns over the lack of a funding plan to the state government. The minister for health Jillian Skinner indicated the hospital will provide services to public patients but cannot yet confirm whether it will be privately run. She said “Well, you know, that’s why I say we don’t yet know what model will be used. But I can assure you that anyone suggesting there will not be public patients treated there is being mischievous and I’m afraid there is a bit of that happening.

It could be like Newcastle’s Mater hospital, which is a not-for-profit, church operated facility where we pay for the public patients to be treated. We don’t exactly know what it will be we’re waiting to see what Planning comes up with.” In another effort to improve healthcare accessibility in the area, the minister yesterday attended the opening of a community health centre in one of Newcastle’s main shopping malls. The new clinic is aimed at families and will offer a range of services. The minister said “It’s in a fantastic location, easy and familiar access for people. It will provide services for children and families including infant and child development checks, there’ll be immunisation clinics, parenting groups, speech pathology services, youth health clinics and many other things besides.”

Funding cuts force community health group changes – no author listed
In Victoria, a Macedon Ranges community healthcare provider has revealed long-term federal funding cuts have forced the organisation to rethink their operations. Cobaw Community Health will next week begin offering full fee allied health services including speech pathology, psychology and physiotherapy. The non-profit says the new services will supplement services already offered to those who cannot afford healthcare. Ben Willis from Cobaw Health said “It’s not a magic bullet in terms of the challenges the organisation faces. We will be looking at other areas where we can derive income through social enterprise … it’s not going to be a cash cow that’s going to solve all of our problems, it’s one element of it.” Mr Willis said the group previously relied on government funding but that can no longer be the case. He said “We’re not unique in making these changes.

“Community health organisations across the state are having to grapple with the decrease in funding in real terms and also the increasing costs that are coming through in terms of compliance.”

Healthy Food and Drink Choices introduced in ACT Health – ACT Health Press Release
In the ACT, the acting director-general of health Dr Paul Kelly yesterday announced the commencement of the Health Food and Drink Choices Policy for ACT Health, which will increase the variety of healthy options available to staff, volunteers and visitors to ACT Health facilities and events. Dr Kelly said “ACT Health is leading the way in meeting one of the actions in the Towards Zero Growth Healthy Weight Action Plan, to improve the availability of healthy food and drink choices in the workplace. Making healthy food and drink choices more readily available to ACT Health staff, volunteers and visitors, is a simple step we can take to assist people make healthy choices every day.” The policy is based on a national framework and categorises foods and drinks into green, amber and red groups according to their nutritional content. The goal is that no more than 20% of products on offer will be “red” foods or drinks. Dr Kelly continued “The policy will be progressively implemented over the next 12 months, allowing staff, food outlets and vending machine supplier’s sufficient time to make the necessary changes. ACT Health will be providing educational materials and support to help the transition. The first step will be to increase the healthy options available in the vending machines in ACT Health facilities. We see this as an important initiative to contribute to improving our knowledge of and access to healthy food drink choices. This is part of tackling poor diet, overweight and obesity which are major causes of chronic disease and disability with almost two-thirds (63.6%) of ACT adults overweight or obese. The implications of this are serious for individuals and their families, for communities, for our health system and economy.”
Patients’ diets will not be affected by the scheme as their diets are often specific to their condition, but Dr Kelly is hopeful the move will benefit ACT health staff and volunteers, as well as visitors, and said “ACT Health employs a large workforce and delivers services to a substantial proportion of the ACT population and we are committed to the health of our staff and visitors and to leading by example.”