Tuesday, June 6, 2017

ACT Budget 2017 - HCCA Initial Response

During the election campaign in 2016 Health featured strongly. The ACT Labor released a range of election commitments as part of their Ten Year Health Plan. This included significant infrastructure investment with the design and construction of the SPIRE centre, a new, expanded emergency department, an extension of the women and children’s hospital, more walk in centres and funding for a new building for Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service. This budget starts to bring this vision into reality.

People will notice that there are delays in the state of many of the commitments, such as SPIRE, and these will not see services delivered before 2020. This is for a number of reasons.

ACT Health has started a process of planning for health services for the next ten years. This process is called theTerritory Wide Health Services Plan. This will include the development of models of care (the way care is delivered) as well as looking at planning for the workforce we will need to deliver the care. Technology – through the Digital Health Strategy – will also be considered. And all of these feed into the design of the new buildings. To bring the infrastructure projects forward without doing this planning is putting the cart before the horse. That is not to say the system is working well currently.

We know that there are significant pressure on our public hospital system. Canberra Hospital is one of the busiest Emergency Departments in the country. Calvary continues to experience increase in the number of people presenting there. And the Outpatients Departments are busier than ever.

There is a vast amount of work underway to address thedata issues that ACT Health has been experiencing with the territory wide data Review announced by the Minister in March 2017. This is not due to conclude until early 2018. It is extremely difficult to effectively plan for the future if you do not have confidence in the data you have. And the other major activity is the completion of theUniversity of Canberra Public Hospital, the rehabilitation centre that will provide sub-acute inpatient care for older people, people who have had neurological events like strokes, and longer term mental health rehabilitation. These people will stay at the centre for their treatment and care. It will also provide a range of day programs – where consumers will attend each day but stay at home. This has to be a major focus for the Government. The opening of this centre will free up much needed clinical spaces at Canberra Hospital and Calvary that can then be used for other services.

As mentioned above, there are a number of elements that need further explanation including consideration of workforce issues and the eHealth agenda.

Workforce is a critical element of a safe and efficient health system. There are a range of initiatives that demonstrate investment in the ACT workforce, such as the University of Canberra Clinical School and the additional nursing positions. The existing ACT Workforce Plan is for 2013-2018 and there is a need to have in place strategies to address the attraction, education, recruitment and retention beyond that date, to reflect the timing of the budget initiatives. We need staff for the new services.

The eHealthy Futures that was announced in the 2010-11 budget has experienced delays. This was first announced in 2009 when the ACT Government allocated $90.2 million over four years for eHealth initiatives. It was it described as an "unprecedented level of investment" by the then Minister for Health, Katy Gallagher MLA. The intention of this commitment was to ensure our health system was better positioned to meet the needs of the ACT community at the time and into the next decade. The Budget this year says it will be complete by June 2018. There needs to be some fresh thinking on how technology can improve the quality, safety and efficiency of services .We know it is difficult but it is worth the investment to help people have better experiences and outcomes of care and improve the connection between our very fragmented health system.

A couple of highlight include:
Mobile dental clinics: The community's most vulnerable people suffer the poorest dental health. So two new mobile dental clinics should help. The larger of the two will visit schools in more disadvantaged areas. A smaller one will visit disadvantaged adults in shelters and halfway houses. Turning room and power supplies are among the challenges still to be sorted. The government will spend $2,173,000 over the next four years.

Nurse navigator positions: We are very interested in the announcement of twelve nurse navigator positions. Queensland Health introduced the role in 2015. The nurse navigator roles are clinical roles held by experienced nurses with expert clinical knowledge and in-depth understanding of the health system. Their focus is to support patients with complex health care needs to identity their needs and facilitate access to services. They support and coordinate patients across their entire journey rather than focusing on just a specific disease or condition.

HCCA has been funded in 2017-8 ($100,000) to undertake work to develop a model of patient care navigators. It will be important for us to with ACT Health in this. We are particularly interested to develop the navigator role to help educate patients about self-management of their health needs which supports people to feel empowered to make decisions on their own health care.

While the government has invested in health care services, accounting for a third of the budget, ACTCOSShas called for greater ambition to deliver on the community’s expectation for a practical plan to drive back gathering inequality. Susan Helyar said “we are disappointed that, while the Budget checks off a number of election promises, we are still not meeting the community’s expectations about action for those who face sustained long term cost of living pressures especially those who can’t find affordable and accessible housing.” Their Media Release is available online. ACTCOSS commissioned research into cost of living pressures over the past three years which revealed a persistent and widening gap between income and living costs for individuals and households living on low incomes in the ACT. 

The Budget was well received by the ACT P&C Council. Their media release is available online. The Youth Coalition welcomes elements of the budget but remains concerned that the Government does not have a plan to address education inequity and recognition of the skills, knowledge and expertise of community services in supporting students who are at risk of disengaging from school.
An update on SHOUT. Our members will be interested to learn of the ACT Government commitment to SHOUT. SHOUT supports many community groups and the government wants that to continue. The government also wants to see SHOUT with a sustainable operating model.  The government's solution is
• to await the review's findings and 
• to give $70,000 to ensure SHOUT keeps ticking over.
Pending the review's findings, SHOUT may receive recurrent funding in the 2018-19 budget. 

The Government’s glossy overview of the health budget is available here:http://apps.treasury.act.gov.au/budget/budget-2017-2018/better-care-when-you-need-it  The Budget Papers for Heath Directorate are available herehttp://apps.treasury.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/1069369/C-Budget-Statements.pdf.

The Government is to be commended for their commitment to funding the health service to meet the needs of the community. Thirty one percent of the budget has been allocated for health services. This is $1.6 billion. The challenge for the Government is ensuring that the election commitments complement the health services planning that is currently underway within ACT Health.

We will continue to analyse the budget and share our thoughts with members via our newsletter.

Darlene Cox
Executive Director

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