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SA politics: health crisis « Previous | |Next »
December 18, 2003

After all the cuts, restructuring and reorganization made to the SA Department of Human Services over the last decade, a financial black hole has been discovered by the Rann Government along with the financial irregularities. The Department has been overspending and is need of a bailout, says a senior Government source drip feeding a gullable Advertiser, It's journalists recycle media releases instead of doing investigations.

Chris Sheil over at Backpages puts it well:

"I've seen it many times. Decades of re-organisation and rationalisation will eventually catch some sucker; the one who's sitting in the chair when the thing falls over. Under the longstanding neo-liberal policy influence, just about the only definitive way that governments can discover their services are stuffed, is by default. It's not uncommon to find a minister's portfolio predecessors joining in the scalp hunt, despite being equally, and sometimes even more, culpable."

Well things have fallen over at the Department Human Services with "emergency" funding needing to put in to keep things ticking over.
Emergency means that there is a systematic crisis here, due to a couple of decades or more of cutbacks to health by both Liberal and Labor Governments.

The solution? For the Rann Government it is to restructure the Human Services Department yet again. Thus the Treasurer, Kevin Foley, says:

"This Government is smashing a large, unwieldy bureaucracy and making two leaner workplaces that will be more service-focused.... We decided to split it in half so we can have an agency looking after health specifically and an agency looking after family and community services and protection of our children and the ageing."

That imagery of "smash" and "lean" about the health bureaucracy is neo-liberal imagery. It means more cut backs, more job cuts, less services, doing more with less. The "more service focused" image is the human face that says we are still a Labor Government and we care. Both together means that no attempt is to be made to deal with the systemic crisis in health.

How do you deal with the systemic crisis? Chris Sheil has one solution. He says:

"The first thing you do is reverse the present Australian government responsibilities. Hospitals should be directly funded by the national government, just like universities. The closer people come to dying, the more health-monies are consumed. Hospitals are the deep end of the system; the big health factories; the catastrophic centres; the places where the real big bucks go, just before people go off to meet their maker. The Australian federation has a pronounced vertical fiscal imbalance, which should dictate the distribution of government responsibilities, and this rule says that there should be direct national hospital funding."

Sounds more like aged care to me. Why not more aged care facilities for the dying than using hospitals for this purpose? The Commonwealth already pays for aged care and primary health care. Why not give the states a bundle of money and allow them to spend it as they see fit within specific criteria to ensure they are accountable?

The states have the money as the GST is now flowing to their coffers. SA is getting more than it expected from the GST ($230 million) and it is expected to be GST positive before 2006-7. The Rann Government has the money to spend on health, but it refuses to do so. It stands for "prudent management" as defined by the criteria of the money market.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:30 PM | | Comments (2)


Likewise, well said Gary. My only rider would be that combined health and community services departments are somewhat more exposed to social problems being defined as medical problems ... not that I think reducing this risk is driving the SA re-organisation, which reeks of the same old cosmetics

I agree with that increased exposure to the risk of medicalization.

Buthe deaprtment was worrking-it was able to think in terms of provding aged care facilities, the kind of building needed, and the community it woudl be a part of.

It was messy working it through---but it was done.

Now we are back to the old silo model as a cover for a refusal to spend the money available.

You can hear the finance ministers muttering into their coffee as they scan the morning newspapers with the screaming headlines:

"...we cannot allow those interest groups to get their hands on the surplus. The welfare state has been captured by interest groups.Well, we are goign to roll them back. We are in charge here."