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  • Jason Regan

Vic hospitals underfunded before pandemic

Victoria was spending the lowest amount on public hospitals in the country before the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer staff and beds and longer wait times, the productivity watchdog has found.

The Productivity Commission's annual report on government services was released on Tuesday, revealing Victorian public hospitals received the equivalent of $2687 per person in recurrent funding from 2019 to 2020.

The figure puts Victoria $284 behind the national average of $2971, the lowest hospital spending in the country. The report also laid bare hospital staffing issues, with 14.8 nurses, doctors and other health workers per 1000 people in 2019-20, below the 15.7 average, and the second-worst state or territory behind South Australia.

Just 2.3 public hospital beds were available per 1000 people in Victoria from 2019 to 2020, the second-worst in Australia behind WA at 2.2 and under the national average of 2.5.

Between 2020 and 2021, 62 per cent of patients were seen on time in emergency departments, down five per cent from the previous year and behind the national average of 71 per cent.

The wait for non-urgent surgeries has also blown out - 31.6 per cent of all Victorians waiting for surgery were facing "extended waits" from 2020 to 2021, with 44.9 per cent facing extended waits for category two surgeries.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley speaks to media at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. (AAP Image/Con Chronis)

Health Minister Martin Foley said the state government spent a "much higher amount" on community and home care than other jurisdictions.

"This is a government that is investing record amounts, be it in infrastructure, be it in workforce or be it in services, whether they be home-based, community-based or hospital-based," he told reporters on Tuesday.
"We do so because we want to have the best hospital system, not just in the country, but in the world."

The findings come as the state's health system continues to operate under a "code brown" emergency declaration.

Mr Foley said hospitals were under "enormous stress at the moment", but the system was currently receiving "record support" from the government.


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