2019-20 Australian Capital Territory Budget Delivered

The 2019-20 ACT Budget was handed down on Tuesday 4 June by Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr.

OTA has prepared a summary of those Budget measures most relevant to occupational therapists. Click on the links below to skip to the sections of most interest to you.


The Bottom Line

Citing the unexpected Coalition victory at the 18 May election, ACT Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr has said additional spending is now necessary and that the Territory must therefore go into debt over the next two financial years.

The 2019-20 ACT Budget, Mr Barr’s eighth, includes the largest infrastructure spend since self-government. The Chief Minister had hoped an incoming federal Labor government would pick up at least some of these costs. He said “very modest” budget deficits would now have to compensate for this lost income.

Much of the infrastructure spending relates to previously announced projects, notably $47 million over four years for the planning of stage 2 of the light rail project.

A surplus of $43 million this financial year will be followed by a projected deficit of $89 million in 2019-20 and a $66 million deficit in 2020-21, before returning to a surplus of $135 million the following year.

Household rates will rise, by an average of 11 per cent for unit owners and 7 per cent for home owners. Revenue from parking fines and speeding tickets is forecast to rise.

Health and Hospitals

Over the next five years almost $1 billion will be invested in new and improved healthcare infrastructure across Canberra.

This includes funding for a major upgrade and expansion of The Canberra Hospital, with the Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) Centre. SPIRE is intended to meet acute healthcare demand into the future by providing:

  • more inpatient beds and operating theatres;
  • a new and expanded intensive care unit including paediatric intensive care, a rehabilitation gym and a family zone to support family-centred care;
  • an expanded coronary care unit including interventional radiology;
  • a new and expanded emergency department;
  • interventional radiology suites as well as integrated radiology and medical imaging facilities; and
  • a mental health short stay unit.

Preparatory site works for SPIRE will get underway with decanting and site works commencing this year, with construction set for completion in 2023-24.

Although funding of $53 million has been set aside for the project this year, the Barr government has refused to reveal the total cost of the project, citing commercial reasons. It is widely expected to be in excess of $500 million.

Funding of $47 million over four years will enhance frontline services at Canberra Hospital’s Emergency Department to help reduce waiting times and respond to increasing demand. There will be another Interventional Radiology suite to provide care for cancer and stroke patients, and new and upgraded MRIs.

Funding of $39.5 million over four years will enable the expansion of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children which is co-located with Canberra Hospital, to support women and young people needing maternity services and other specialist care.

Elective surgery at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce will be boosted by expanding theatres at the hospital, and adding more doctors and nurses to staff the new Emergency Department when the current expansion is complete. Total additional investment in the hospital will be $22 million over four years.

Funding of $8.1 million over four years will deliver a new Walk-in Centre in Dickson, providing faster access to care for minor injury and illness for people living and working in Canberra’s Inner North. This will bring Canberra’s network of Walk-In Centres to five, at Gungahlin, Weston Creek, Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Dickson.

A new program to develop better integrated pathways and improve health outcomes for people with complex and ongoing chronic health conditions will be co-designed with general practitioners.

The Budget delivers funding of $12.8 million over four years for specialist services supporting Canberrans with chronic and ongoing conditions. This includes expanded services for childhood and gestational diabetes, dermatology, and the Fracture Clinic at the Canberra Hospital, as well as an expansion of the urology service at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce.

The government will provide $10.5 million over four years to implement the recommendations of the Independent Review into the Workplace Culture within ACT Public Health Services, promoting a healthier culture, reducing inappropriate workplace behaviour and re-engaging staff.

Mental Health

The 2019-20 Budget includes measures aimed at improving mental health services and ensuring access to a better range of treatment options.

A $2.5 million investment in the Adult Mental Health Unit at Canberra Hospital will enable a more comprehensive psychosocial approach to treatment, care and support for patients. This funding will also support workforce development and improved clinical care standards.

Funding of $4.6 million over four years will enable the Mental Health Consultation Liaison Service to operate seven days a week, providing more support for people with mental illness at Canberra Hospital and with a particular focus on people admitted into medical and surgical wards or those presenting to the Emergency Department.

Funding of $2.2 million over four years will establish an Eating Disorders Specialist Clinical Hub, as well as a community-based intervention support service to expand the range of eating disorder services available in the ACT.

Work will commence on the design of a Police, Ambulance and Clinician Early Response (PACER) model to enable first responders to provide better support for people experiencing acute mental health incidents. This will bring together police, ambulance paramedics and mental health clinicians to support the safe assessment and treatment of people experiencing acute mental health episodes without the need for admission to hospital.

Funding of $2.3 million over four years will establish a new opioid maintenance treatment clinic in Canberra’s north. This will deliver more timely access to treatment for those living on the northside to help them engage with the program. The government will also undertake a feasibility study and needs assessment for a medically supervised injecting facility in the ACT and continue to support Canberrans whose drug and alcohol use is a factor in their involvement in the criminal justice system.

Specialised nursing staff will be recruited to enhance drug and alcohol services at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, at a cost of $1.1 million over four years. This will expand the existing opiate replacement treatment service and provide a range of additional drug and alcohol services. It will enable services to be delivered seven days a week, in order to better support detainees dealing with addiction issues while they are in custody.

Disability Services

The ACT government will continue to invest in disability supports as the territory moves to full NDIS arrangements from 1 July 2019. About 6,800 Canberrans are now accessing individual packages of services and supports through the scheme. Expenditure of $4.9 million over four years is anticipated.

Existing disability services that are not eligible as in-kind contributions under the scheme will be maintained. This will ensure these services remain free and accessible for Canberrans with disability who are not currently receiving an individual support package through the NDIS. This includes continuing to invest in the Children and Young People’s Equipment Loan Scheme, the Child Development Service, the ACT Taxi Subsidy Scheme, the Integrated Service Response Program and Rehabilitation, Aged and Community Care supports.

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