Doctors, unions warn of job cuts as hospital looks to save $20m
JOB losses and a reduction in service quality would be inevitable under plans to find $20 million in savings from the local health district, doctors and health unions say.
Senior physicians and the nurses' union believe the proposed budget savings are shortsighted and make a mockery of recent State Government funding for more specialists in the Far North.
Acting chief executive at the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, John Slaven, said $13 million in savings would have to be found this financial year to deliver health care within the district's $581 million budget.
A further $7 million in savings would have to be achieved by the end of the 2013-14 financial year.
Cairns anaesthetist and Together Queensland union vice-president Sandy Donald said cutting $13 million from the local health budget made a joke of the State Government's $4 million specialist funding boost.
"It becomes a limited advantage if after giving us the money they say now you have to save," Dr Donald said.
Queensland Nurses Union Far North organiser Kaylene Turnbull said it would be a "huge feat" to create $20 million in savings.
"I can not imagine how they're going to do that without job losses," she said.
Dr Peter Boyd, chairman of the Senior Medical Staff Association, agreed staff cuts would likely be necessary to achieve the savings.
"It's a lot of money to cut, especially given that the need for health services keeps growing," he said.
But Mr Slaven said the savings must be found despite the district's budget being $40 million larger this financial year an 8 per cent increase because the extra cash only covers the annual incremental rise in the cost of delivering health care.
He said a team assembled last month to redesign the local health system had identified a number of ways the district could run more cost efficiently.
One idea was to offer health staff reduced hours to four days a week instead of working full-time, on a trial basis, Mr Slaven said.
Ms Turnbull said this was a "shortsighted" concept that would directly affect patient care.
"You can't offer the same services if you've got less staff on some days," she said.
tag Can the health system cope with further cuts? Have your say online at cairns.com.au
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Concerns: Senior physicians and the nurses' union believe Cairns Base Hospital plans to save $20 million over the next financial year are short-sighted. Picture: MARC McCORMACK.