ECHUCA hospital is facing a 50 per cent jump in power costs.
Regional hospitals were recently advised by Health Purchasing Victoria, which purchases electricity contracts on their behalf, to expect a rise in costs in the near future.
Echuca Regional Health chief executive Michael Delahunty said the hospital’s power costs would rise by $375,000 a year.
‘‘It’s a shock. We knew costs were going to go up 10-15 per cent, so to get a 50 per cent increase was a shock to us,’’ he said.
‘‘When you think about $375,000, that’s about $1000 a day.
‘‘It’s significant and it’s a serious issue for the whole community, but in the context of public hospitals it has a material impact on our budget in this current financial year.’’
Mr Delahunty did not expect the sudden rise in costs to impact service delivery, but he said it would mean the hospital would have to find savings in other areas.
‘‘To break even, we’re going to have to reduce areas of equipment purchases and that sort of thing. We won’t reduce services, we won’t reduce staff, it just means cutting back on things that now are going to be needed but are going to be pushed back.
‘‘Our budget this year is of the order of $70 million in total revenue. It is a large amount of money but at the end of the day it is an overhead and we don’t want to impact on direct services.’’
Mr Delahunty said ERH was continuing to negotiate with the department about the possibility of getting additional funding for the energy costs.
‘‘We’re hopeful there may be some additional assistance given,’’ he said.
However, in parliament on August 23, Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio would not guarantee additional energy costs at country hospitals – expected to be worth about $2 million in western Victoria alone – would be covered.
Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh condemned the minister for abandoning country hospitals, just months after the government failed to stop the closure of Hazelwood Power Station and the loss of 22 per cent of the state’s baseload power.
‘‘Regional hospitals deliver a vital service to our country communities, but the Andrews Labor Government has turned its back on us,’’ Mr Walsh said.
‘‘Daniel Andrews was wrong when he said power bills would only go up about four per cent after he let Hazelwood close.
‘‘Rising energy bills add more strain to country hospital budgets that are already stretched thin and it is up to Daniel Andrews to increase funding and make sure regional health services aren’t cut as a result.’’