ACT Health review should look at insufficient funding growth: Stanhope

Former chief minister Jon Stanhope has criticised the territory government for not increasing its health expenditure in line with inflation, saying he believes financial pressures are at the heart of issues plaguing ACT Health.

Mr Stanhope's comments came after Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris announced an independent review into the culture at ACT Health on Monday.

Former chief minister Jon Stanhope, who says he would be very surprised if a budget pressures were not contributing to cultural issues at ACT Health.

Photo: Karleen Minney

ACT Health has stumbled from crisis to crisis this year, rocked by bullying and harassment allegations, mismanagement claims and the shock resignation of new Canberra Hospital boss Janet Anderson just days after she was appointed.

Mr Stanhope said he believed many of the issues surrounding the health system were symptoms of budget stress, and that funding was one of the first things the review should examine.

He pointed to an analysis by former ACT Treasury policy director Khalid Ahmed, which looked at the government's estimated health spend between 2017-18 and 2021-22.

Dr Ahmed's analysis, which used figures from this year's budget papers, found ACT Health spending was not increasing in line with the consumer price index, with health expenditure in the territory growing at an annual rate of 4.1 per cent.

In March, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that health costs were increasing at a rate of 5.4 per cent.

"There are clearly enormous stresses in the [health] system and as someone who knows how our system works in the ACT, it seems to me that there is a major systemic issue," Mr Stanhope said.

"I would be surprised if money isn't at the core of the problem.

"I can't believe that it is not a contributing factor to the issues that we're seeing."

Dr Ahmed's analysis also found that with the budget estimating ACT population growth of 1.5-1.75 per cent, funding needed to increase by 7 per cent just to maintain per capita expenditure.

Mr Stanhope said it was unacceptable that health expenditure in the ACT was not keeping pace with inflation and a growing population.

He said insufficient funding created stress among staff, lowering morale and potentially contributing to some of the cultural issues the independent review will aim to get to the bottom of.

"It's where I'd go first," Mr Stanhope said, when asked if the review should look at whether health was appropriately funded.

"It's never an answer to just throw money at things, but when you've got people being asked to do more with less, it has an impact on staff and you see it in a range of ways like the ones that are being reported.

"They are symptoms of budget stress."

The ACT government is yet to announce who will conduct the independent review or what its terms of reference will be, but Ms Fitzharris has said it will not be a full board of inquiry.

A spokeswoman for Ms Fitzharris said the terms of reference would be released in the coming days, meaning it remained unclear whether the review include an examination of health funding.

The spokeswoman said funding was looked at every year as part of the territory budget and that the ACT government spent about one-third of its budget - almost $2 billion a year - on health.

However, budget papers show that the government expects to spend $1.531 billion - well below $2 billion - on health this financial year.

Away from the review, Ms Fitzharris' spokeswoman said the territory government was looking at ACT Health's future funding needs in light of discussions with the federal government about the next National Hospital and Health Reform Agreement.

"Don’t forget the Commonwealth, through the 2014 Abbott/Hockey budget, ripped over $250 million out of the ACT’s health budget too," the spokeswoman said.

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