Hospitals brace for painful cuts

EASTERN Health says it has been forced to close beds, suspend elective surgeries and cut mental health and palliative care programs in an attempt to claw back more than $8 million after federal funding cuts.

In Knox, five surgical beds at the Angliss Hospital in Upper Ferntree Gully have temporarily closed, as well as five palliative care beds at Wantirna Health. The cuts will start to bite on February 4.

Eastern Health has permanently closed the Lilydale palliative care outpatient clinic, a music therapy program and primary mental health program in Blackburn.

Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said, however, that Commonwealth funding to Victoria's public hospitals would increase by $900 million over the next four years and the Baillieu government needed to stop playing politics with Victorian patients.

"I think that Victorian patients are tired of the cuts and they are tired of the excuses from Ted Baillieu," Ms Plibersek said. "With that increase it's very disappointing to see that the Victorian government can't run a health service that meets the needs of patients."

"The Victorian government has cut $616 million out of health services and we are seeing the sad results."

Temporary suspensions to health services include the Kool Kids Positive Parents mental health program and reduced services from the Central East Crisis Assessment Treatment Team.

Beds have also been closed at Box Hill Hospital and the Peter James Centre, and weight-loss elective surgery has been suspended.

There will also be a reduction in the number of non-urgent joint replacement operations.

Eastern Health acting chief executive Janet Compton said the affected staff would be offered other jobs within the organisation, where possible.

Ms Compton said the staff had worked together to find solutions to the funding cuts that would have the least impact on patients.

"The services we have identified currently have the capacity to reduce their current demand," she said.

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