IF BASS Coast Health was a patient, you’d say the hospital has made a miraculous recovery from a near death experience.
The health service has just recorded a loss of only $972,000, in the draft annual report it tabled in State Parliament last week, for the 2015-16 financial year.
You’d rather make a profit but when compared with the $3.915 million loss the previous year, the $1.694m loss in 2014, and projected forward, into a small budgeted surplus of $28,000 this financial year; it’s a remarkable effort.
Not that hospitals are all about balanced budgets. They’re not.
And the news on the patient care front is also good, according to health service CEO Jan Child, although overall the health service actually saw fewer acute patients in the past year; down from 8139 in 2014-15 to 7765 in 2015-16.
“It’s a terrific result, significantly better than last year, but we’ve still got a way to go,” Ms Child said this week.
“We made the decision when I came on board that we had to earn our way out of the situation we were in and we did significantly more work as the year progressed.
“The other thing we did was seek support from the department for the extra work we had done in the past and also the work we did in the 2015-16 financial year, for example in the Emergency Department, which should have been funded and the department agreed.
“They acknowledged that we are doing more and income will now be on-going. It will put us in a much better position going forward.
“During the year, we also made the changes at Armitage House, freeing up further acute beds.
“And we’ve done more in aged care as well.
“We’ve set ourselves up for the future but we can do more.”
The hospital’s Chief Financial Officer, Phillip Maddock, said the health service’s WEIS activity was up 7 per cent for the year, backing up Ms Child’s comments about the health service getting more for the work they are doing.
The State Government uses WEIS as its activity based funding formula whereby various procedures have a funding score.
Bass Coast’s WEIS activity of 3836.49 in 2015-16, as against 3578.07 in 2014-15, was significantly better and indicates the hospital received more income for slightly fewer admissions.
But Ms Child said throughput numbers continued to increase into the new financial year.
“We increased acute admissions in the second half of the last financial year and that’s continuing,” she said.
“We’ve improved our baseline and now we’re looking to increase our services, especially to local patients. We’re encouraging our surgeons, for example, to do more procedures here and we want them to see more local people so that they can get the care they need here.”

Working within our capability
Bass Coast Health has however made adjustments to the level of care it offers at the Wonthaggi hospital, ahead of the findings in the Duckett Report, handed down last Friday.
And this could reduce the number of procedures.
“When I came here, one of the first things I did was carry out a clinical governance review at BCH and while we came through that well, there were some times when we were working outside our capability.
“We sent out notices to our clinicians to say that we would now be working strictly within our capability and once we have that in place, we’ll look at how we can grow.
“For example, we have cut surgery for patients under 12, because you aren’t supposed to do that unless you have a consulting anaesthetist.
“Also, with maternity, where we have mums with more complex issues, we won’t be doing that. We’ll be referring them to Casey.
“We’ve already made the adjustments and consequently, we weren’t mentioned in the report as we had already done what we needed to do.
“There may be some people who will be disappointed about not being able to get that work done locally but it’s all about safety, in the wake the issues at Djerriwarrh Health (potentially avoidable infant deaths) and I’ll hold a banner for quality and safety every day of the week.
“In the end, we’ll get much better outcomes across the health system and we’ll be looking to expand our capacity here over time.”
To that end, Bass Coast Health participated in a sub-regional planning day at Leongatha last Friday, where an assessment was made of the extra services needed across South Gippsland and Bass Coast.