FNQ healthcare budget needs a boost

UNFAIR: The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service receives 10 per cent less f

UNFAIR: The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service receives 10 per cent less funding than Townsville, has 10 per cent less staff and 16 per cent lower funding per head of population. PICTURE: REGI VARGHESE

THE great Cairns versus Townsville debate has reared its head in the health sector following revelations the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service is severely underfunded compared to our southern neighbour.

According to the latest annual reports, the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS) is more populated than the Townsville Hospital and Health Service by 8 per cent, has had 23 per cent more ­admissions and 29 per cent more emergency department presentations.

However, Cairns receives 10 per cent less funding than Townsville, has 10 per cent less staff and 16 per cent lower funding per head of population.

According to Queensland Health, funding is based on which hospital delivers more services.

Brisbane-based deputy director general for healthcare purchasing Nick Steele defended Townsville Hospital’s budget because it was labelled the major tertiary hospital for North Queensland.

 

DOING ENOUGH: State Health Minister Cameron Dick said the Government had “done the right

DOING ENOUGH: State Health Minister Cameron Dick said the Government had “done the right thing by the Cairns community” on health funding. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

 

A tertiary hospital is defined as having highly trained specialised staff, equipment and services able to care for patients with the most ­complex or life-threatening conditions.

“Major hospitals, such as Townsville, deliver more services and therefore receive more funding,” Mr Steele said.

“It provides a range of specialist services for their HHS and for those in the Cairns and Hinterland HHS, as well as Mackay and North West.”

He said population was just one factor in determining how much money a service ­received.

“One of the main factors influencing the funding for any hospital is the amount of activity and the range of services they provide,” he said.

Northern Queensland Primary Health Network chairman Trent Twomey said Cairns Hospital was often burdened by treating patients who lived outside the region.

“The Cairns Hospital is not funded as a tertiary referral hospital yet it functions as one because of the referrals from the Cape and Torres Strait,’’ Mr Twomey said.

Recording 91,607 admissions in the 2014-15 financial year, CHHHS chief executive Julie Hartley-Jones admitted the service had experienced a huge jump in patient numbers.

“There is no doubt that our health service is experiencing a significant increase in demand for our services and this will continue to create challenges for all health services as our population ages,’’ Ms Hartley-Jones said.

 

UNDER PRESSURE: CHHHS chief executive Julie Hartley-Jones admitted the service had experi

UNDER PRESSURE: CHHHS chief executive Julie Hartley-Jones admitted the service had experienced a huge jump in patient numbers. PICTURE: STEWART MCLEAN

 

“To meet this demand the health service will of course need to be funded appropriately but we also need to be innovative and open with our community about their expectations of health care.”

Ms Hartley-Jones did not comment on the financial differences between Townsville and Cairns but when The Cairns Post quizzed Minister for Health Cameron Dick on whether the funding allocation was fair, Mr Dick said the Government had “done the right thing by the Cairns community”.

“I want Queensland to have a world-class health system,’’ Mr Dick said.

“This requires a responsible approach to funding for growing demand in healthcare.”

Mr Dick said CHHHS had received an increase of $45.5 million – or 6.8 per cent – in this year’s budget.

He then blamed the Federal Government for cuts in health spending.

“The biggest risk to health funding in Cairns comes from the Federal Government’s broken election promise not to cut health spending.

According to the National Health Performance Authority, FNQ residents have a higher rate of medically preventable deaths by 17 per cent and will live a year and a half less on average compared to residents of the Townsville to Mackay region.