ERH faces mas­sive power hike

The Riverine Herald - - NEWS - By Ivy Wise

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.’’

‘ We knew costs were go­ing to go up 10-15 per cent, so to get a 50 per cent in­crease was a us. ’ shock to

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