After the Election: What is in store for Health?

Wednesday 12 Apr 2017

As the dust settles on the State Election we take a look at the changes WA Health might face with the new Labor Government and their plans for Putting Patients First.

It is important first to consider the state of the economy. The budget deficit forecast for 2019-20 is now $1.1 billion, compared to the $535 million pre-election forecast. State debt is now forecast to reach $42.3 billion by 2020. As Treasurer Ben Wyatt noted, WA now has “a record high underemployment rate and unprecedented low wage and population growth”.

It is noteworthy that the documents presented by the Government still include various ‘savings’ measures including 4, 367 FTE of redundancies , the 1% efficiency dividend , and the ‘workforce renewal’ policy of replacing experienced staff with cheaper inexperienced people. For more information see here, especially page 23.

In this very challenging environment we can expect that there will be continuing pressure on the health budget. In a speech in February Treasurer Wyatt detailed what he saw as the fiscal challenge saying:

“The 2014/15 State Budget had a key budget strategy that assumed convergence between the cost of delivering public hospital services in WA with the national average cost of hospital services by 2017-18.  At that time our costs were 8 per cent higher.  A year later this differential had grown to 10.3 per cent and by the current Budget, had grown to 18 per cent and the ‘key budget strategy’ to converge was abandoned by the Government.”

To address this challenge the key health policy Labor took to the election was a ‘Sustainable Health Review’. Ben Wyatt again :

“This is why WA Labor has announced what will, in effect become, Reid Review Part II.  A fundamental review of the Health system to guide Government to bring sustainability to the health system.  In developing our draft terms of reference WA Labor has taken advice from a range of health experts, both medical and financial, and it is my view WA has a tremendous opportunity to benefit from national and international learnings around procurement, strategic sourcing, integrated pathways and culture change which contribute to better patient healthcare. WA Labor will release its draft Terms of Reference regarding this Review in due course.”

The Sustainable Health Review will include ‘New Health Patient Dialogues’ which will be convened around the State as part of the review, bringing together front-line staff, consumer advocates, health leaders and administrators to contribute to a new direction.

It is encouraging to note that at the policy launch Labor stated: “We will work with staff, unions and stakeholders to usher in a new era of health care in Western Australia.”

The Government’s Public Sector Policy commits them to maintaining wages, stopping the privatisation of services , and improving the rights of Public Sector workers.

The union will be meeting with new Health Minister Roger Cook this month, and we will report to members on any developments.

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