The healthcare system in Victoria has never been better equipped. We live in a world of incredible technological advances, unprecedented quality of care, and ever-growing numbers of services and supports. Our workforce is among the best in the world and our health outcomes continue to improve year-on-year.
The Department of Health oversees the largest health infrastructure portfolio in Victoria’s history, with more than 80 health, mental health, aged care and ambulance services infrastructure projects and grants programs in planning or delivery.
The number of Victorians affected by mental health issues soared during and after the pandemic. Two and a half years into the largest reform in mental health services in our state’s history, our mental health and wellbeing system now provides better access to services where and when Victorians need them. Similarly, the 40,000 Victorians who are dependent on alcohol and other drugs have a broad spectrum of community-based and residential treatment options.
We are investing in medical research, collaborating with other state and federal governments, and prioritising prevention and early intervention. And yet, for all our advances, we still face some of the challenges of the past, along with new challenges of the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic deeply impacted our system and its people. Demand for services and access continues to stretch our system, and complex chronic conditions are affecting more Victorians than ever before.
Our infrastructure expansion will need to be carefully managed in a challenging global economy that continues to be impacted by supply-chain disruptions and labour-market constraints. Climate change, global competition for workers and increasingly complex conditions all affect our ability to deliver the best possible healthcare to Victorians.
Some of these forces are out of our control. But for those we can influence, we are acting and will continue to act to achieve better outcomes, more inclusion and increased community empowerment.
Emergency departments and ambulance services remain the first port-of-call for many Victorians who do not need that level of care but have nowhere else to go. We need to reduce the load on our emergency services by ensuring people can access the right care in the right place at the right time.
Because of the pandemic, planned surgery waiting lists are longer than ever before. And many Victorians delayed seeking care for their conditions, which have now worsened over time. Sadly, this means when they do present, it is at a much later stage, which is a devastating scenario for those with conditions like cancer, who will need more aggressive and extensive treatment. To meet these demands, we are already well on our way to improving how surgery is provided across our state.
We know there is health inequity for Victoria’s First Peoples. To close this gap, we need to transfer decision-making about Aboriginal health and wellbeing to Aboriginal people. We must strengthen the Aboriginal community-controlled sector while building a mainstream sector that is free from discrimination, is culturally safe, and meets the specific needs of Aboriginal people.
Women in Victoria have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. But they are still treated by a system that was designed by men and for men. Female-specific health issues and the way women respond differently to general health conditions must be addressed by expanding access to women’s health services and increased research and data collection.
In childhood, negative health outcomes can have serious impacts across a person’s entire life. In disadvantaged communities, we see a disproportionate number of children with serious health concerns. Tragically, some children’s health is affected because they are neglected, abused or traumatised. These are systemic issues that require a coordinated approach across the entire spectrum of Victoria’s support systems so that we can protect Victorian children and give them every opportunity to thrive.
At the other end of the lifespan spectrum, more than one million Victorians are aged over 65 years. We are providing a healthcare system that allows people to live longer. So we need to ensure that our ageing population is respected and honoured not only in their healthcare but across all aspects of their lives. They are the ones who created the world we live in, and they deserve the care of the ones who now benefit from their hard work and sacrifice.
Our rural and regional communities face access challenges and have poorer health than those living in Melbourne. Victoria’s multicultural communities also experience poorer health and wellbeing outcomes than the broader Victorian population. Unsurprisingly, refugees and people seeking asylum also experience significant health and wellbeing disparities related to their refugee journey.
Around 17 per cent of Victorians are people with disability. They not only have poorer health outcomes but also face a range of systemic barriers, including in relation to communication and mobility, as well as physical and psychosocial support needs. We can and must improve the system for these Victorians.
Just over one in 20 adult Victorians openly identifies as being LGBTIQ+. They face high levels of discrimination, stigma and exclusion, leading to poorer health, economic, social and mental health outcomes than other Victorians. The only acceptable scenario for Victoria is that there is no distinction among people who are or are not LGBTIQ+. Healthcare does not discriminate.
Globally, climate change remains a dual concern. At one level, we are more susceptible to extreme weather events and emergencies that will have immediate health impacts. At another, the health sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. But we have extraordinary opportunities to make a positive and lasting impact for generations to come. Victoria’s planned Melton Hospital will be powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity and is just one example of innovation that would have been unfathomable only a decade or so ago.
It is within this environment that we have developed our strategic plan. A plan that recognises the challenges, capitalises on innovation and delivers a path forward that will move us towards our vision of Victorians being the healthiest people in the world.
Reviewed 31 August 2023