Anger over federal cuts to aged care

Macedon Ranges Health Centre chief executive Don Tidbury with federal health minister Susan Ley and board member John Wauchope. Picture: Shawn Smits.

Opposition MPs and a Gisborne-based health service have slammed cuts to aged-care funding in this year’s federal budget.

Aged-care providers will lose more than $1 billion in funding across Australia for complex healthcare over four years under the federal budget handed down last Tuesday.

That news comes weeks after experts warned of a looming “tsunami” of aged-care demand in the Macedon Ranges, with projections showing people in the McEwen electorate will have the state’s second-highest incidence of dementia by 2050.

While welcoming increased spending for public hospitals ahead of a looming election, Macedon Ranges health chief executive Don Tidbury said reduced aged-care funding was a ‘‘real concern’’.

‘‘I fear it’s going to impact on our ability to deliver services,’’ he said. ‘‘The number of people aged over 80 living in this area will nearly triple over the next 10 years.

‘‘I would hope that whichever party is in government, they would take charge of aged-care funding.’’

Mr Tidbury also feared an ongoing freeze of the indexation of Medicare payments to doctors would have an affect on the area’s high bulk-billing rates.

‘‘It may well lead to doctors having to increase the level of co-payment required from patients,’’ he said.

Mr Tidbury’s concerns were echoed by McEwen Labor MP Rob Mitchell and his Bendigo counterpart, Lisa Chesters, who decried the budget as catering for the ‘‘big end’’ of town.

‘‘Almost 85 per cent of Bendigo workers will miss out on an income tax cut because they earn less than $80,000 per year,’’ Ms Chesters said. ‘‘Meanwhile, people who earn more than $300,000 a year will receive at least a $2600 tax cut. It’s unfair to give tax cuts to those at the top rather than every worker.’’

Both Ms Chesters and Mr Mitchell bemoaned the fact that a fraction of education funding slashed in 2014 and 2015 had been restored, meaning schools such as Sunbury College will miss out on at least $1 million promised under the Gonski reforms.

Bendigo Liberal candidate Megan Purcell said the government’s No.1 priority was to create jobs.

‘‘We face a highly competitive, volatile and uncertain global economy, but the Turnbull government has an economic plan which is working,’’ she said.

Ms Purcell welcomed tax concessions for at least 15,500 businesses in the electorate.

Also funded was $13.3 million to help councils maintain and upgrade local roads and $500,000 for the new Kyneton Community Park.