WA’s peak Aboriginal health organisation is seeking an urgent assurance from the Health Minister that core funding for Aboriginal primary health services will be quarantined from budget cuts.
This year’s state budget has cut funding for a range of Aboriginal health programs in half, from $30 million a year to an average of $16 million a year over the next three years.
The programs, known as the Footprints to Better Health Strategy, aimed to increase access to quality health care, improve services and create jobs for Aboriginal people in the health sector.
In State Parliament yesterday, the Health Minister said the budget figures were not final, and that he would seek additional funding for the programs from the Department of Health budget.
Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA) Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said the Minister must ensure the top-up funding did not come from core funding provided to Aboriginal Medical Services to provide primary health care.
“The Health Minister has told Parliament that his Department is going to try and find additional money in its budget to properly fund the Footprints to Better Health Strategy,” said Ms Nelson-Cox.
“While we welcome news that this strategy is likely to be funded, what we are very concerned about is where in the health budget this money is going to come from,” she said.
“We hope that this is not an exercise in robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said AHCWA was particularly concerned that the Department might attempt to take funding out of primary health care.
“We will fight any move to shift funding out of core services to top up the Footprints to Better Health strategy,” she said.
“The primary health care funding is needed to employ doctors and nurses in 20 Aboriginal Medical Services around the state.
“That funding is absolutely vital for the health of Aboriginal people and we would oppose any move to reallocate even one dollar of it.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said the Aboriginal health sector was already wrestling with changes in funding imposed by the Federal Government, and needed certainty from the State Government.
“We are very surprised at the lack of communication from the government,” she said.
“This budget shortfall has come as a complete shock and we need the government to explain the situation urgently and assure us that it is not going to cut core funding.”