NSW health funding cut by $150 million

Funding needed: Brian Owler operating at Westmead Children's Hospital.
Funding needed: Brian Owler operating at Westmead Children's Hospital. Photo: Janie Barrett

NSW will miss out on more than $150 million in funding for vital health services that has been cut by the federal government.

People living in western Sydney will be hardest hit by the cuts, with Westmead Hospital losing $100 million over three years. The Children's Medical Research Institute and the Westmead Millennium Institute will also lose tens of millions of dollars, the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook released on Tuesday shows.

According to Westmead Hospital 2013/14 budget allocation documents, the hospital will cost more than $632 million to operate this year.

Didn't expect the money: Health Minister Jillian Skinner.
Didn't expect the money: Health Minister Jillian Skinner. Photo: Louise Kennerley

People will suffer as a result of the cuts, said Alison Verhoeven, chief executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.

“This is bad news for public hospital patients,” she said. “It denies them the latest and best technology and infrastructure and it will cause some 'access block' [due to] over-crowded facilities."

This is bad news for public hospital patients

She said the cutting of “Priority Health Initiatives" from areas of social need was particularly concerning.

“These are areas with a substantial number of people of relatively low income who have a strong reliance on public health services,” she said.

Other cuts included $22 million for upgrades to the ageing St George Hospital, and $6 million for a magnetic resonance imaging service (MRI) at Mt Druitt.

But the state government says it was never expecting the money, much of which was promised and budgeted for immediately before the election by the Labor government.


“These were smoke and mirrors promises from Labor - completely hollow, with no budgeted funding behind them,” Health Minister Jillian Skinner said.

“It is reminiscent of NSW Labor's unfunded promises to upgrade Blacktown, Campbelltown, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga hospitals before the state election – there was no money.”

Australian Medical Association NSW head Brian Owler said he had not expected the money for Westmead would come through, but that the promised funding, and much more, was needed.

Labor's federal health spokeswoman, Catherine King, said some of the promised money that had been cut – such as funding for dental training – had been in place long before the election.

“And the fact is that this government has made the choice not to continue this funding,” she said. “They have clearly abandoned their election promise not to cut funding from frontline health services; it is entirely hypocritical to say health is immune from cuts and then do something like this.”

“This is clearly a sign of what's to come in [the budget in] May”.

Before the election, Prime Minster Tony Abbott said that the Coalition planned to “maintain existing levels of funding”.

“We are about preserving frontline health services, preserving and improving frontline health services,” he said.

His health policy document also criticised Labor for cutting funding in a “shock announcement” in the last mid-year fiscal outlook.

“The cuts were a double blow because they came part way through the financial year … It was another reminder of Labor's dysfunctional approach to managing our health system,” the document says.

Most of the $500 million in cuts Labor has identified are removal of projects budgeted from 2014 to 2017.

However, at least $28 million appears to come from projects budgeted for this financial year, including money for cancer care co-ordinators and stroke care.