A WAGES blowout of $3.5 million in the past financial year, at the Gippsland Southern Health Service (GSHS), which operates the Leongatha and Korumburra hospitals, has driven the health service to post an operating loss of $1.12 million.
The poor result, according to the health service’s treasurer Duncan Smith, compares with an operating surplus last year of $565,000.
“There were a number of factors that affected the result. The two significant items were an increase in salaries coupled with a decline in inpatient revenue,” Mr Smith said at the annual meeting last Thursday.
“The organisation’s total employee expenses increased by $3.5 million or 13 per cent compared to an increase in total income from operating activities of $1.5 million or 4 per cent.
“That is a $2 million increase in expenditure without an equivalent increase in income.”
He said an inability to record an adequate increase in revenue to offset the increase in employee expenses was due in part to “the inability to reach hospital inpatient targets”.
“This resulted in a funding recall by the Department of Health and Human Services of $760,000 for outpatient work estimated but not delivered.”
To a large extent, Mr Smith said, the increase in staff expenditure was the result of amendments to the State Government’s Safe Patient Care Act, estimated to have added $1.1 million annually to the health service’s bottom line.
In February this year, when the State Government introduced the legislation, they said it would add an extra 600 nurses and midwives to Victorian public hospitals.
“The amendments to the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act 2015 mean the number of nurses and midwives on a variety of shifts will be rounded up – instead of down – removing a loophole that meant staff were often carrying a workload up to 50 per cent higher than the prescribed ratio.
“Nurses and midwives can now devote more time to each patient, with safer care and better health outcomes,” said Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.
“Ratios will be improved in palliative care, birthing suites and special care nurseries, as well as during peak times in emergency department resuscitation cubicles,” she said.
But the nurse ratio change has proved costly.
In his report, GSHS Chair Alex Aeschlimann highlighted the increased levels of cooperation between hospitals in the region, especially on the development of the Gippsland South Coast Clinical Services Plan which he said would “significantly transform and enhance the health access and outcomes of communities in South Gippsland and Bass Coast”.
He said GSHS had experienced strong growth in services through demand for home care packages and NDIS services.
He said $586,000 had been spent on new medical equipment in the ear, nose and throat treatment area.
He made particular mention of the health services volunteers numbering over 100 in a wide range of areas.
He thanked the Lyrebird Auxiliary, the Leongatha Horticultural Society for working on the gardens and other service clubs which provided funding and support.
A highlight of the annual general meeting was the awarding of life governorship to Nigel Broughton who had been a member of the board since July 2015. Mr Broughton served as junior vice president and vice president and was a member of the Quality Improvement and Clinical Governance Committee throughout his tenure until his retirement from the board in June 2019.
Mr Broughton is travelling overseas and was unable to receive his award but was thanked for his contribution by board chair Alex Aeschlimann, who also thanked other board members for their efforts.