More control for rural health

AN announcement that block funding would be used to fund rural hospitals has been a relief to Coffs Coast health professionals awaiting more details of health reform plans.

During a televised debate with Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott on Tuesday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said activity-based funding would take into account all the local costs in rural areas and the rest to make sure it worked.

“But if that doesn’t, then of course, we’d look at a form of national block funding, which was able to underpin the continuation of smaller rural hospitals in the future,” the Prime Minister said.

The Medical Director of the Mid North Coast Division of General Practitioners, Dr Helena Johnston, said yesterday there was no doubt reform of the hospital system was needed.

She said the issue was how to devolve the administrative oversight of hospitals into much smaller networks; who was to be the fund holder and how case-mix funding could be balanced with other types of funding and they were waiting for more details.

She pointed out that the new funding would still not be 100 per cent national but 60/40 Federal/ State rather than as now where it is 40/60 Federal/State.

“I do not think any smaller hospitals in trouble now will be any better off under the new system,” Dr Johnston said.

“But at least we would have more local control.

“We know case-mix works, but in Victoria, it was originally at the cost of some smaller hospitals.

“Whose decision will it be at the end of the day to close or change services?”

Dr Johnston said the current funding arrangements were partly related to hospital activity and partly to surgical activity, with a different bucket of money used to fund community health services, which was closer to the ‘block- funding’ model, where a health facility gets a specified sum to fund a mix of activities.

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