FRANKSTON Hospital will not reopen its short-stay ward of 10 beds until Easter.
The move has been forced on the hospital by federal government cuts announced just before Christmas.
On 18 December it was stated Victorian hospitals would start closing beds after the federal government cut $107 million from Victoria’s health budget.
The cuts to funding came after the Australian Bureau of Statistics reduced population estimates for the current financial year, triggering the cut.
On Wednesday, hospital spokesman John Jukes said the ward was meant to open this week after the summer break but would stay closed until Easter and staff “redeployed”.
Patients use the ward if their stay is less than 48 hours. “We’ll manage without it and see if it impacts on elective surgery,” Mr Jukes said.
He said Frankston had about 400 beds “if you include treatment chairs”.
Extra pressure will be put on the hospital next month when Rosebud Hospital starts a major refurbishment to improve fire safety.
Contractors will be installing a fire sprinkler system in every area of the hospital, expected to take about five months and cost $750,000.
Rosebud Hospital’s director of operations Alison Watts said it would be a “challenging and complex project because we want to keep as much of the hospital as possible open”.
“We will be reducing bed capacity from 60 to 30 and rescheduling some surgery to Frankston Hospital for the five months. Importantly the emergency department, dialysis ward and chemotherapy ward will continue operating, though at some point they may be temporarily relocated from their current areas while sprinklers are installed,” Ms Watts said.
John Jukes said patients from Rosebud Hospital would have to be shifted to Frankston.
“The principle impact will be on Rosebud’s emergency department,” he said.
Mr Jukes said both hospitals would ramp up “hospital in the home” services.
Since December, the state and federal governments have engaged in a public slanging match.
Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan said there had been an unprecedented 26 per cent increase in health funding for Victoria over the next four years.
“Had the population growth been higher than expected, more funding would have been paid,” he said.
Victoria’s population is increasing by 1.5 per cent a year, the same as the national average.
State Treasurer Kim Wells said Victoria had received from the Commonwealth $15.3 million less for hospitals in December compared with November.