BLOOD pressure was down; breathing, body temperature and heart rate were all normal.
The vital signs from the management team at Bass Coast Health were all good as they wrapped up another financial year last Thursday in much better shape than previous years.
“We hope to end up much closer to break even than we did last year,” said acting CEO, Jan Child, who was however at pains to point out that cutting costs was no longer the main focus for the health service.
“Over the past four months we’ve focussed more on increasing revenue than cutting expenditure and as a result, we’ve had a growth in revenue this year,” Ms Child said.
“And we hope to get more funding next year for our Emergency Department after successfully demonstrating that we are doing the work here.
“We’ve sped up activity over the past four months in all areas; in sub-acute (recovering patients), community programs, in our acute medical beds, in surgery and in the ED.
“The more you see, the more you get funded for. All of the activity we were funded for last financial year has been taken up and we also asked for more WIES (funding for each type of admission) and we got it.”
Turning around the big ship that is Bass Coast Health will be no mean feat and it will only be when the annual report is published in October that the final result for 2015-16 will be revealed.
But Ms Child said she expected it to be a lot closer to break even.
Battling to provide a high-standard, sub-regional service in sub-standard facilities, Bass Coast Health ran up a record loss of $3.178m last year, following on from deficits of $2.54m and $1.62m in the previous two years.
And Ms Child agreed the high cost of running the ageing facility was a financial drag.
The past performance ultimately resulted in the departure of the previous CEO, Veronica Jamison, and a period of upheaval which followed.
But the appointment of former Chief Operating Officer at Peninsula Health, Ms Child as acting CEO, and a new chair, Don Paproth, a government-department savvy, former education bureaucrat, appears to have worked wonders.
Having ruled off the last financial year, the health service is looking ahead.
On Monday this week they commissioned an 11-bed new sub-acute ward in the refurbished Armitage House facility next to the Wonthaggi hospital, aiming to add a further four beds over time. Armitage House has only been half full for the past two and a half years but will be much better used under the new scenario.
The relocation of recovering patients from the hospital into the facility will free-up more beds for medical and surgical procedures, i.e. more local care and more revenue.
“We’ve built a gym and freshened up the place ahead of moving the patients in and everyone is delighted with the result,” Ms Child said, pledging to expand relationships with local doctors and visiting specialists to use the increased capacity in the hospital.
“It’s all about building capacity and building capability locally so that we can progressively build our services up to sub-regional level by the time we’re ready to build a new hospital.
“Our ED is already at sub-regional standard and by working through the Clinical Services Plan that we were funded for by the State Government, we’re building a case for more sub-regional services and also a new hospital.”
Bass Coast Health isn’t waiting for the results of that study to do the things that need to be done now, including expanding its cardiology services with the support of Peninsula Health and several visiting heart specialists.
“Stress-testing and range of other services will now be delivered at Wonthaggi.
“And if you do have a heart attack you’ll have a lot better chance of getting a bed at Frankston.”
The plan is also to expand other specialties and with that in mind, BCH recently met with neighbouring hospital execs including Gippsland Southern (Leongatha) and South Gippsland (Foster).
Geriatrics, endocrinology and diabetes and respiratory specialties (asthma, emphysema, cancer of the lungs) are among the areas of treatment BCH is looking to develop.
The health service is also making a $9 million pitch for improvements under the $200 million new Regional Health Infrastructure Fund included in the Victorian Budget 2016/17.
These works might include a new entry to the ED, replacement of the hospital’s fire sprinkler system, water filtration and body-protected electromedical patient treatment areas.
“But the overriding goal is a new hospital, preferably on a greenfield site, and I believe it’s achievable within 10 years,” Ms Child said.
“I think we’ll have it sooner than that,” Mr Paproth opined
Healthier hospital has big plans