The health system in Western Australia is made up of a mix of services provided by the Australian and State Governments and private healthcare providers. This mix includes General Practitioners (GP’s), after-hours GP services, specialist services, nursing posts, hospitals – public, private and public/private partnerships – and health services in general.
There is a wide range of health services provided in WA delivered by a range of operators, including some by government agencies and some by private and not-for-profit organisations. These include: child health services, school health services, community health services, immunisation services and women’s health services.
Specifically related to health, the range of community services funded through the WA Department of Health (WADoH) include services in the following areas:
- Health promotion and education
- Family health care including screening, immunisation and treatment of infants and school-aged children
- Health care to those who may have special needs such as aboriginal people, women, people with severe disability or disease, older people, low income earners and people in remote areas
- Nursing and therapy services
- Palliative care
- Multicultural services.
In dollar terms, in 2015-16 total expenditure on health cost the WA Government $8.4bn of which $4.7bn was spent on wages. Whilst more up-to-date figures are not yet available, in the 2014-15 year, there were 529 non-government organisations managing 1,586 service agreements with the WA Government for the provision of community services with an estimated value of $1.4bn. These funded organisations employ over 11,000 staff and utilise the services of more than 8,000 volunteers and while a large part of the income for these services comes from government, they generate over $2bn a year in income.
There’s no doubting it’s all worth big bucks and, which makes it an attractive target for those wishing to make savings within government. The WA Government believes that while the overall health system and provision of community services within that system performs well, the needs of the community are changing, demand for health services in increasing and the health workforce is evolving. As outlined in The WA Health Funding and Policy Guidelines 2014-15, the government has outlined a range of measures aimed at supporting system-wide reform and providing insights on application of processes and management of the WA Health Budget.
Additionally, the WA Opposition has outlined its approach to improving the health system in WA in a document entitled Making Health Sustainable. Central to WA Labor’s approach is the recommendations of The Reid Review which it believes provided a pathway for the sustainable delivery of health services as well as setting in place the ground work for building the Fiona Stanley Hospital, Midland Hospital and the New Children’s Hospital.
Whilst the health landscape and the provision of services in the community may be evolving in WA, the need for community services is most certainly not diminishing. During times of economic challenge and the tightening of budgets, it is important ensure that the provision of services to those most vulnerable in our community is not put at risk and that where gaps exist they are identified and measures put in place to close them.
In it’s pre-budget submission for the WA State Budget 2017-18, entitled The Future In Our Hands, the WA Council of Social Service (WACOSS) has urged the WA Government to frame the forthcoming budget around three themes: Smarter Services, Stronger Families, and Resilient Communities. WACOSS believes the framework they’ve outlined is critical to delivering improved outcomes for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable within the community, particularly in tight economic times.
As WACOSS so rightly and eloquently points out in it’s pre-budget submission, “The consequence of our mixed economic performance, and the policy and taxation settings of State and Federal Governments, has resulted in growing levels of inequality and poverty across our State. Inequality not only harms us economically; it ultimately harms the social wellbeing of our community. It must be a priority for successive governments over the coming decade to reverse this trend.”
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