By Kath Gannaway
The Save Healesville Hospital Action Group (SHHAG) which drove the campaign which saw the hospital and health service significantly resourced to provide services to the Yarra Valley, has backed concerns about cuts in services.
Following the Mail’s story ‘Cuts to Health’ (20 March) in which the Victorian Allied Health Practitioners Association (union) spoke of their action and concerns about cuts and extended waiting lists, and the response from Eastern Health that they are “currently recruiting to recently vacated roles” to provide more timely care, Shhag chair Jane Judd called for more explanation saying the evidence is there that there is a reduction in services.
“The Yarra Junction facility is now only open three days a week and was open five, and it’s likely that reduction came from not replacing an admin worker who left.
“At the moment there is no paediatric speech therapist, where once there were a couple, and there were a couple of paediatric occupational therapists and now there is only one – a 50 per cent reduction,” she said.
“It is now between 12 and 18 weeks to get an appointment for a physio therapist because physios who have resigned and gone on maternity leave have not been replaced.”
Ms Judd said concern is growing as a female GP who left the Community Clinic, run out of the Healesville Hospital site, in 2017 has not been replaced, followed by the departure last week of the only other female GP.
“We don’t know when this latest doctor will be replaced, but we do know when Dr Erin Hatherell left in 2017 she was not replaced at all,” Ms Judd said.
“The question then is what is the consequence on the rest of the team in delaying in recruitment, whether it’s a GP, or alied health practitioner, the consequence of not recruiting in a timely manner is that it puts extra pressure on other staff and potentially triggers others to choose to leave.”
Ms Judd said Shhag was concerned when the word ‘community’ was removed when the renaming of the hospital was decided.
“That concerned us; when they handed over family violence to Anglicare, we were concerned, and when they encouraged Inspiro (a separate health service) to come into Healesville, we were concerned.
“We fought to revive, maintain and expand services and Healesville has only been open for 13 months and we’re seeing a reduction in services,” she said.
“We want service levels restored to previous levels.”
Ms Judd said Shhag was also calling for more transparency.
“It’s time that governments required health services to be more transparent about their priorities.
“Clinical positions should be a priority and it would be useful to have health services using infographics to show the trend in where funds are being spent – what percentage of funds out of an $800million budget is going on clinical positions, what percentage is going on support positions and what percentage is going on managerial and corporate services … and what is the trend.
“Our concern is that with an election looming these cut backs are part of the bigger picture to lobby for increased funding, but the losers here the children and families who can’t get appointments for the services they need now.”