BUDGET: Health funds for disability care

By , 10/07/2019 12:24

DISSATISFIED: NSW Nurses Association Hunter organiser Matt Byrne wants more money for staff in key departments. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers MORE than $17 million will be spent on dedicated Hunter health services in this year’s state health budget but the biggest cash splash is sure to be $585 million for the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the region.

There were no surprises in the health pages of the budget, with previously announced plans for $6.8 million for planning a new hospital in the Coalfields and $4.5 million for a paediatric intensive care unit at John Hunter Hospital.

There are also funds for Muswellbrook emergency department refurbishment, the reopening of Bulahdelah Hospital as a medical centre and Raymond Terrace HealthOne.

Statewide, highlights in the budget included money for palliative care ($10 million), mental health, ($1.45 billion), oral health ($50 million), medical research ($51 million), more nurses and emergency departments.

There’s also money for ambulance fleet replacement and ambulance service reforms.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said this year’s record $19-billion health budget increased by 5.2 per cent compared to last year.

The most recent consumer price index for health was running at little over 7 per cent.

John Hunter Hospital’s struggling emergency department is likely to benefit from $220 million across NSW to cope with increased health activity including emergency department attendances, intensive care and hospital admissions.

There’s also $9.2 million across the state for 80 more clinical nurse/midwife specialists and educators, including $3 million for 30 new palliative care nurses across NSW.

Ms Skinner said she was pleased the budget recognised the importance of integrated care, such as those schemes at Bulahdelah and Raymond Terrace.

‘‘Integrated care provides patients with options to avoid hospitalisation,’’ she said.

‘‘This is the future of modern healthcare systems.’’

Disability Services Minister Andrew Constance said the state government was on the ‘‘front foot’’ with $585 million for the NDIS.

However, the funding is only a slight increase compared to what the state government would have spent on disability services in the region regardless.

‘‘We were proud to be the first state to agree to the full funding of the NDIS with the federal government,’’ Mr Constance said.

NSW Nurses Association Hunter organiser Matt Byrne said yesterday’s budget contained only re-announcements and he was ‘‘gutted’’ to see no new funds to improve staffing levels in neonatal, paediatric, intensive care or emergency departments.

‘‘The cuts to health jobs are well known but the equivalent staff enhancements are not known at all,’’ he said.

‘‘The state government said it has hired 4000 nurses into the system but can’t tell us where they are.’’

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