WA health services under attack

Issue 
Fiona Stanley is one of three Perth hospitals under funding attack.

Health services are under serious attack in WA, with the Health Department asking hospitals to finalise “budget management strategies” by the end of January.

Amid claims of massive cuts to funding, hospitals in Perth are bracing for staff cuts. The Health Services Union (HSU) expects about 500 jobs to be shed at Royal Perth Hospital and similar numbers at Fiona Stanley Hospital. The union says its previous predictions of about 1000 job cuts “across the board” now appeared “conservative” and job uncertainty is causing widespread stress.

HSU state secretary Dan Hill said a recent survey showed 60% of staff experienced work-related stress that adversely affected their mental health. “The government and the department need to come clean as quickly as possible and remove the uncertainty,” he said.

A department spokesperson said the South Metropolitan Health Service, covering Fiona Stanley, Fremantle and Royal Perth hospitals, would “try to ensure permanent staff can be accommodated in the revised workforce”.

“RPH, Fiona Stanley and Fremantle Hospital are overstaffed for their activity levels and exceeding their budget,” the spokesperson said, adding “It is possible to maintain the highest possible standards using lower staffing levels than currently in place.”

WA Health director general Dr David Russell-Weisz said he could not put an absolute figure on job cuts within the health department. “We know we are over-staffed and over budget at some of our hospitals,” he said.

“We have to look at how we can be more efficient and that's not just about job cuts it is about simple things like rostering, over time, the use of agencies and casuals and where there are too many staff it may be looking at some fixed term appointments, but it is not all about job cuts.”

Meanwhile $1.6 billion has been earmarked for the controversial Perth Freight Link, and money has been made available for an artificial wave stadium. Clearly it is not a question of the availability of funds, but how they are allocated.

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