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Tight budget a challenge

Wednesday, 5th January, 2011

Dr Steve Flecknoe-Brown Dr Steve Flecknoe-Brown

By Stefan Delatovic

The main challenge facing the Far West Local Health Network’s Governing Council would be managing a tight budget, according to its new chairman.

Local Health Networks began operation on January 1, replacing the previous Area Health Services as part of the Commonwealth’s health reforms. 

The networks are smaller and aim for more localised decisionmaking. Dr Steve Flecknoe- Brown chairs the Far West network’s Governing Council, which was appointed last month.

He said the new network would not be noticeably different for some time, with a slow transition planned. 

The Far West’s was the most localised network, Dr Flecknoe-Brown said, as it was the smallest. 

While that provided the most tailored decisionmaking, he said, it also came with the “tiniest budget by far”.

“That means there will be very little room for error, much less flexibility,” Dr Flecknoe-Brown said.

“That will be the principle challenge for the network.” The introduction of an episode funding model would be a challenge for Broken Hill, he said.

The new model sets a price for medical procedures and has hospitals paid for the work they perform. 

It has been criticised for failing to take into account the greater costs needed to deliver regional services.

Dr Flecknoe-Brown said episode funding needed to be done well as it was phased in. It’s planned to be operational locally in 2013.

“I’ll be watching very carefully how the pricing authority is set up,” Dr Flecknoe-Brown said. 

“If there is not serious rural representation I’ll be making a lot of noise.

Dr Flecknoe-Brown said the health system changes were not about cutting costs, jobs or services, and that the Far West had good facilities and very good people.

He said the Governing Council would work to ensure services were maintained to meet the needs of the public and in a way that made sense for clinicians.

The group will meet for the first time next month. Dr Flecknoe-Brown said he was pleased with the make-up of the Council.

He is joined by Allan Carter, Diena Grant- Thomsom, John Harris, Thomas Hynes, John Ives, Maureen O’Donnell, Stephen O’Halloran and Dale Sutton.

Mr Carter is the Chief Executive Officer of Southern Cross Care. Dr Flecknoe-Brown said he was not only an authority on aged care, but on health administration and budgeting.

Ms Grant-Thomson, head of Allied Health, brings experience in working with the maldistribution of professionals between metropolitan and regional Australia.

John Harris is the former manager of Robinson College and has held a number of community development roles.

Dr Flecknoe-Brown said Mr Harris was well known for building bridges between community organisations, and provided business acumen and a wealth of contacts.

Mr Hynes knows the community very well, and has both legal and financial expertise.

Dr Ives is a visiting obstetrician/gynecologist who spends half his time in the Far West.

Mrs O’Donnell, as an Aboriginal Elder, will provide valuable insight into an important past of the community.

Mr O’Halloran is the Mayor of Balranald and represents his end of the network. 

Dale Sutton, Director of Nursing, brings the view of practicing nurses and industrial expertise through her work with the NSW Nurses’ Association.

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