darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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March 15, 2010

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester fears small rural hospitals will be hard-hit by Kevin Rudd’s plan to takeover hospitals.

And Mr Chester says plans for regional health boards could mean less control for local communities.

Mr Chester has called on the Prime Minister to release greater detail about how he plans to address the shortage of doctors in regional areas and how regions like Gippsland will be directly affected.

“My fear is that the establishment of regional boards will be a step backwards for Victoria,” Mr Chester said.

“If one board, based in Warragul for example, is given the responsibility to manage funding priorities for hospitals in Sale, Bairnsdale and Traralgon, they will not have the local knowledge or the accountability to make sure all decisions are in the best interests of the community.

“In East Gippsland, it could mean a remote hospital like Orbost, with its own special needs, having decisions made by a Sale or Bairnsdale or Warragul-based board with no understanding of the local community’s issues.”

The Rudd Labor Government plans to nationalise hospital funding and utilise the “casemix” formula right across Australia.

Mr Chester said casemix funding was already in place across Victoria but there were incentives for small hospitals that don’t have the economies of scale to be viable under the payment per patient system.

He said the biggest issue in Gippsland was the difficulties in attracting and retraining doctors and other health specialists and there wasn’t enough detail on how the plan would address this issue.

“We’ve already seen the Labor Party’s last attempts to revise health funding.

“They reduced the incentives Gippsland services could pay to recruit and retain doctors,” Mr Chester said.

“The Rudd Government classified the Latrobe Valley as Melbourne’s outer suburbs, which has made it harder to attract and retain doctors in our area.

“The same changes to rural zoning meant Orbost Regional Health Service was no longer categorised remote and instead became “outer-regional” – costing the service around $60,000 in annual funding.”

Mr Chester said he would pursue the need for more incentives to recruit and retain doctors in regional areas as recommended by the Rural Doctors Association of Australia.

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