Minister blames others for closed doors to pregnant women
Health Minister David Davis says he does not believe the problem of expectant mothers being denied the chance to book hospital beds early in their pregnancy is widespread.
The Age this morning revealed that the Victorian Health Services Commissioner was investigating a recent trend where staff at the recently expanded Werribee Mercy Hospital had told several local women this year that the hospital was too full to book them in for antenatal care.
Mr Davis this afternoon continued to blame previous state Labor governments for failing to plan properly for population growth, but denied the situation was being repeated across the state.
"I don't believe this is widespread, I believe that hospitals by and large are working their way through these challenges," he said.
Mr Davis said a perinatal advisory committee was working with under-stress hospitals to provide services.
The minister also blamed the federal government for placing extra pressure on hospitals through changes to private health insurance.
"It is very clear that they [the Gillard government] are targeting private health insurance and what that is doing is seeing a drift from private delivery of maternity services to public," Mr Davis said.
"This is a direct response to the federal government decision to wind back support for private health."
Mr Davis also criticised Treasurer Wayne Swan's mid-year budget update, saying Victoria would lose $67 million in federal funds from the state-Commonwealth healthcare agreement.
Indexation of healthcare funding, which takes in health costs, population and productivity, was agreed to by the state and federal governments.
"There is significant financial challenge we face in Victoria at the moment with the removal of significant Commonwealth money," Mr Davis said.
He said the Commonwealth's argument that the population had been overestimated by the ABS from 2006 was wrong, saying there was clear growth.
A spokesman for Mr Swan said the changes related to indexation rates that the states had fully signed up to through the Intergovernmental Agreement, which were "extremely generous" and were measured by factors that were independent of the Commonwealth.
"This is typical rubbish from the Victorian government, desperate to cook up any excuse for their inability to balance their budget," he said.
"There are no cuts — there are changes to the indexation rates locked in through the Intergovernmental Agreement. Had the indexation rates increased, then payments would have increased."
The spokesman said the Gillard government had done more than any other for health spending, with $16.4 billion of guaranteed investment in frontline hospital services through the National Health Reform.
Mr Davis will write to federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek today and will seek to debate the issue at the next meeting of health ministers.
Asked if the state government would boost money if Commonwealth funds were not reinstated, particularly for extra maternity services, Mr Davis said he hoped the Gillard government would deliver the money.
"We would seek in the first instance to make sure the Commonwealth lives up to its obligations," he said.