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Funding questions

Saturday, 7th May, 2011

By Gina Wilson

A cloud hangs over the head of the hospital as changes to its funding structure threaten to cause budget cuts.

From July 1 the NSW Health Department will dictate the amount of money hospitals get under the new “casemix” funding model, where hospitals are given money on a procedure by procedure basis known as ‘weighted separation’.

But the Health Department hasn’t released that price, making it impossible to say the budget will be sufficient for local needs.

“I don’t know what the price is going to be ... it hasn’t been determined,” said Far West Local Health Network chief executive Stuart Riley.

“Until such time as all the other details are sorted out it’s hard to say what will happen.”

The hospital will move from the current block funding, where it is given a set amount of money to spend how it needed, to the new activity-based scheme on July 1.

When rumours first began to emerge about the implementation of the new funding model in 2009, unions said it would rip a 37 per cent hole in the local budget.

The NSW Nurses Association said that would result in the loss of 30 nursing positions.

Hundreds of people rallied in the streets, led by the Barrier Industrial Council, to protest the move.

“The health system is under a severe attack and will be decimated if this $11 million is taken out of what is already an overstretched budget,” BIC president Danny O’Connor said in August 2009.

Mr O’Connor said people living in the local region would be disadvantaged.

“If these proposed health cuts go through.... the final nail in the coffin will be the downgrading of the hospital which will lead to further funding cuts and loss of services,” he said.

But Mr Riley said that had been premature and he moved to reassure locals their health service would be safe.

“I’m pretty confident it won’t have an impact on the volume of services,” Mr Riley said.

“I think there are two issues: one, that services will continue to be delivered uninterrupted and two (we) hope we manage the change in the funding system whilst the range of services we deliver remains pretty much unchanged.

“The people of Broken Hill can be confident that they will continue to get the services (while we) make sure we do things efficiently.”


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