PRODUCING an annual report is an important process for your local hospital.
It provides a summary of their whole year, how well they are looking after the community, if they’re financially sound and whether they’re getting enough support from the government.
But many of them have taken the opportunity of the pandemic to delay submitting their annual report, and local MP Danny O’Brien, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health, thinks it’s not good enough.
He’s not talking about the Gippsland Southern Health Service, though, the organisation which operates the Leongatha Hospital, the Korumburra Hospital, the Tarwin Lower Community Health Centre and Korumburra Community Health Centre.
They also operate the aged care facilities at Alchera House, Korumburra, Hillside Lodge, Korumburra and Koorooman House, Leongatha.
GSHS submitted its annual report on time, and it has already been tabled in Parliament.
Officially, GSHS recorded a break-even budget, thanks mainly to a “financial sustainability grant” of $1.3 million from the State Government, acknowledging the additional work done during the pandemic.
CEO Mark Johnson recorded the organisation’s thanks to staff up front in the 2020-21 report.
“During the year the organisation kept in place the required COVID-19 management protocols. This was of course a challenge as Victoria transitioned between lockdowns and various stages of restrictions,” Mr Johnson said.
“During the New Year public holiday & again later in January, the organisation had to quickly deploy additional resources for COVID-19 testing following the identification of positive COVID-19 tests in the Leongatha township.
“It was a fantastic effort by our staff to work over this period at short notice to help support the community in its time of need.”
It was a busy year too with admissions, theatre cases and births all up.
It was the sort of information, according to Mr O’Brien, that the government should have insisted on receiving in a timely manner.
He claimed the community has no clear idea of how local regional hospitals are performing during a pandemic after nearly 60 country health services across the state failed to finalise their annual reports.
He said a dump of more than 200 annual reports in the Victorian Parliament during the past week did not include documents required from dozens of regional hospitals, including services in Sale, Yarram, Orbost, Omeo, South Gippsland and Warragul.
Bass Coast Health is also yet to submit its annual report, they’ve had more pressing issues to attend to.
Mr O’Brien said the worrying delays left the local community in the dark on whether our hospitals are properly equipped to deal with outbreaks.
“The pandemic has put a huge strain on our health system,” Mr O’Brien said.
“With cases expected to rise in regional Victoria as the state reopens, it’s more important than ever that we have a clear picture of how the local hospital is performing.
“Rural communities already experience significant disadvantage with access to health services and specialists and we need assurance that our hospitals are solvent and prepared.
“Our frontline workers like nurses and doctors are under pressure, but they aren’t the ones who prepare the annual reports, so the Labor Government needs to explain the delay.”
Health Minister explains
A letter tabled in the Parliament by Health Minister Martin Foley pointed to “the impacts of the pandemic upon the Hospital and Health Services, and delays associated with auditing” as the reason for the delay.
But Mr O’Brien said the Minister did not state when these reports will be finalised.
Shadow Health Minister Georgie Crozier agreed it wasn’t good enough.
“Rural hospitals are the heart of regional communities and will continue to play a critical role in the pandemic response, along with the critical care and management for those within local communities,” Ms Crozier said.
“Recent COVID outbreaks in Albury-Wodonga, Shepparton and the Latrobe Valley have raised serious concerns that health services have been under resourced by the Government to manage testing and vaccinations, while also meeting local health needs.
“The delay of these reports raises more red flags that the State Government isn’t doing enough to make sure rural health services have the resources they need to meet changing demands.”