Health, Mental Health and COVID Response

The centrepiece of the 2022-23 Budget is a record $2.5 billion investment in health and mental health, reflecting the mounting pressure on the health system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding boost to health and mental health includes:

  • $1.6 billion in new COVID-19 response and recovery measures
  • $630 million in additional hospital spending
  • $252 million Emergency Department Reform Package
  • $223 million new health infrastructure investment
  • $181 million additional investment in mental health including $47 million for an immediate response to the Infants, Children and Adolescents Taskforce Report
  • $158 million for health and mental health initiatives in the regions
COVID-19 response and recovery
The Budget includes $1.6 billion for pandemic response and recovery, bringing the State Government’s investment in COVID-19 to a massive $11.2 billion since March 2020.
This $1.6 billion investment supports the provision of RATs and the WA Free RAT Program, COVID-19 testing and monitoring, Police Force emergency response activities, and school COVID measures.
Health Infrastructure
An additional $223.4 million has been invested in health infrastructure, increasing the total investment to $1.6 billion over the forward estimates, on top of the $1.8 billion set aside for the new Women and Babies Hospital.
Improving emergency care
The Budget includes a new $252 million major reform package comprising 17 initiatives to improve access to emergency care and help address ambulance ramping. Highlights include:
  • $55.8 million to embed 24/7 registered nurses across 15 metropolitan and regional emergency department waiting rooms
  • $55.2 million for telehealth services to reduce emergency department presentations.
Staffing and recruitment
Initiatives to bolster the health workforce include $8,1 million for the International Medical Graduates registration project, $7 million to deliver Aboriginal midwifery services, and $3.7 million pilot program to establish the Aboriginal Health practitioners profession in the State.
Regional Health
An additional funding boost of $158.3 million supports initiatives and investments over the next four years to deliver health services in the regions including:
  • $30.1 million for 18 additional paid paramedics and six additional ambulances in regional WA
  • $49.4 million towards the Geraldton Health Campus Redevelopment
  • $18.5 million to expand the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service frontline workforce across seven regions.
  • $14.1 million towards newborn emergency transport services;
  • $5.1 million to continue the WACHS Mental Health Emergency Telehealth Service.
Mental Health
$1.3 billion will be spent on mental health, alcohol and other drug services in WA,  which represents a 13% increase on last year’s Budget.
As part of this new investment the Mental Health Commission will be allocated an additional $181 million for new and expanded mental health, alcohol, and other drug services.
Key initiatives include:
  • $47.3 million for an immediate response to the Infants, Children and Adolescents Taskforce Report
  • $18.5 million to expand the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service frontline workforce across seven regions by 11.6 FTE
  • $12.9 million for additional peer support workers
  • $10.5 million to deliver a two-year virtual support service for at-risk children
  • $1.3 million for mental health workforce development initiatives.

The State Government will spend an additional $16 million and provide $10.5 million of in-kind contributions to support the WA Bilateral Schedule to the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement, which is a $61.5 million joint State/ Commonwealth investment in mental health.
There is also $6.1 million to continue a range of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder prevention initiatives.
Local Governments make a significant contribution to improving, promoting, and protecting the health of communities.
For some time, WALGA has been advocating for the State Government to work with affected Local Governments and key stakeholders to identify and develop collaborative strategies that will address inadequate health services and difficulties attracting and retaining essential health workers, particularly in regional areas of Western Australia.
Local Government continue to raise concerns about the staffing arrangements for critical health services in regional areas. The shortage and/or lack of adequate staffing, particularly GPs, nurses and mental health professionals in regional locations continues to be a significant problem, exacerbated by long distances and availability of working hours. 
It is pleasing that the State Government has recognised the need to invest in these important areas through the allocation of additional funding in the 2022-23 Budget, however further funding will be needed to improve access to critical health services for regional and remote communities.
WALGA welcomes the unprecedented funding boost to critical mental health services, particularly in regional communities. Local Governments continue to raise issues on behalf of their communities relating to the lack of specialist mental health services to support young people.