Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District blew its budget in 2016-17

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District required a $7.3 million handout from the state government to help pay its debts in the last financial year according to a NSW Auditor-General’s report.

It was one of five health entities – along with South Eastern Sydney, Western Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains local health districts (LHDs) and NSW Ambulance – which required cash assistance in 2016-17.

The Report on Health 2017, released on Tuesday, found that the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) had a deficit of around $7 million as at June 30, 2017.

It also revealed that the district was one of 10 LHDs ‘’not performing’’ against its budget in the past financial year. 

In fact the district went $51.9 million over its original budget of $858.4 million in 2016-17 – with its expenses totalling $910.3 million by the end of the financial year.

The findings prompted Wollongong MP Paul Scully to call on the state government to establish an ‘’independent, external investigation’’ into the adequacy of current funding arrangements for the ISLHD.

‘’What this report shows is what everyone in the region already knows … that we have a hospital system that’s under enormous pressure,’’ Mr Scully said.

‘’In September whistleblowers revealed Wollongong Hospital was at breaking point due to staffing levels, while we’ve also see patient treatment times and waiting lists blow out, as well as concerns over the maternity unit.

‘’My question to Premier Gladys Berejiklian is how can we be confident the government is giving our region the funding allocation and resources it needs?

‘’There needs to be an independent inquiry so we know where the pressure points are and how to relieve them.’’

At the time district management said the budget had been impacted by costs associated with Wollongong Hospital’s expansion, as well as fewer patients electing to use their private health insurance in public hospitals.

ISLHD chief executive Margot Mains said the 2017 report provided a ‘’snapshot’’ of the district’s audited financial report for the last financial year.

‘’The LHD’s budget is set based on the assumed level of activity it will perform for the year,’’ she said.

‘’In the 2016/17 financial year, ISLHD provided significantly more services to the local community, particularly in acute and emergency care, which in turn increased our operating expenditure. The additional government cash funding at year end funded this extra activity.

“The district’s 2017/18 operating expense budget was increased by 4.1 per cent compared to the previous year’s annualised budget.

“Our district’s increased activity includes patients receiving more care locally, whereas previously they needed to travel outside the region, such as to Sydney. This is in line with our goal to provide our consumers with the right care, in the right place, at the right time.’’