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A powerful punch

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September 15, 2017

Seymour Health is facing skyrocketing power bills, adding more strain to the hospital’s already constrained budget.

In the past financial year, Seymour Health has seen an almost $200000 increase on its already sizeable yearly electricity and gas costs.

Seymour Health chief executive Chris McDonnell said their electricity bill had increased by about $140000 from the last financial year to this year, while an increase in gas prices had only applied from January but had seen a $50000 increase in just those six months.

Going by that, for the full year ahead Seymour Health can anticipate an increase of around $250000 in energy costs for the year, when the increase in gas prices is effective for the full 12 months.

‘‘Other costs go up year-on-year, it’s all relative, and we do get a slight budget increase to absorb things like an increase in wage costs and other operating costs, but $190000 on top of our normal expenditure on gas and electricity really does have an impact,’’ Mr McDonnell said.

‘‘Any standardised budget increase that we get is quickly eaten away by rises in costs elsewhere, but we have to account for these gas and electricity price increases in this year’s budget as well and we’re doing all we can to make sure we cater for it.

‘‘That might mean we have to delay a few capital works we thought we might do, because at the end of the day we have got to maintain patient care and safety.

‘‘As a hospital that’s operating around the clock 24-7, we’re a high energy user, it’s the nature of what we do. With things like maintaining temperature controls and so on for safe patient care, we have high energy use as a necessity.’’

Mr McDonnell spoke about the local health service’s plight at a recent round-table discussion in Seymour, led by Member for Euroa Steph Ryan.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has yet to guarantee additional energy costs at country hospitals would be covered in future budgets.

‘‘The pressure that is being placed on our hospitals is simply unsustainable,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘Seymour’s hospital auxiliary cannot be expected to fundraise hundreds of thousands of dollars through cake stalls to try and cover this huge increase.

‘‘As a result the hospital has no choice but to absorb this into their current budget which puts pressure on frontline services.’’

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