Victoria will inject more than $12 billion into its ailing health system as it seeks to undo damage wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Treasurer Tim Pallas on Tuesday handed down his eighth budget on Tuesday ahead of the November state election, declaring it would give healthcare workers an extra pair of helping hands.
Titled Putting Patients First, the budget splashes cash on nurses, paramedics, emergency call-takers and elective surgery.
"This pandemic repair plan means more staff, better hospitals and first-class care," Mr Pallas told parliament.
It includes $22.2 billion in new spending initiatives and a commitment to train and hire 7000 healthcare workers, including 5000 nurses.
More than $80 million will be spent on hiring an extra 400 surgery-related nurses, upskilling 1000 nurses and theatre technicians, and recruiting up to 2000 expat and international health workers through a global recruitment drive.
A further $2.3 billion will be set aside on upgrading and building new hospitals including $236 million to double emergency capacity at Casey and Werribee hospitals.
To allow more patients to be treated at home, opening up space in public hospitals, the Better at Home nursing program will be expanded with a $698 million investment.
Ninety more paramedics will be recruited in a $124 million boost for Ambulance Victoria, which has experienced several "code red" emergencies across the pandemic.
In addition, an extra $218 million has been allocated to ease pressure on the state's embattled triple zero call service following multiple deaths of people while waiting for an ambulance.
That funding will allow the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority to put on an extra 280-odd call-takers, on top of the 120 announced in March as part of a $115 million pledge.
The budget formally sets a target to carry out 240,000 surgeries a year by 2024, as part of its previously announced $1.5 billion COVID catch-up plan.
Mr Pallas said the Victorian government has handed out $44 billion to respond to the pandemic and won't be moved to turn off the tap.
Another $521.7 million will be spent over the next two years so hospitals can continue to treat virus patients, along with another $110 million for the ongoing COVID-19 pathways program.
"We'll keep fighting the fight against COVID-19," the treasurer said.
However, as short-term pandemic support initiatives taper off, expenditure is tipped to slide 9.7 per cent in 2022/23.
Fuelled by economic growth and a rebound in migration, Victoria's treasury has earmarked a modest $652 million surplus by 2025/26.
Net debt is forecast to soar to $167.5 billion over that span but a future fund will be set up to stablise the state's rising borrowings.
While money is tight, the Andrews government has $2.3 billion over the next four years in unallocated funding up its sleeve in the lead-up to the November 26 poll.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said Victoria's health system was already in crisis before the pandemic hit, claiming the damage was caused by eight consecutive years of Labor rule.
"How can you trust the government that got us into this mess to be the ones to get us out of it?" he said.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation described Tuesday's announcements as smart investments.
VICTORIAN BUDGET 2022/23 SNAPSHOT:
Deficit: $7.9 billion
Revenue: $82 billion
Net debt: $118.5 billion
GST Revenue: $18.7 billion
Total tax revenue: $30.5 billion
Land tax revenue: $4.8 billion
Payroll tax revenue: $6.8 billion
Unemployment: Four per cent
Total expenditure: $89.8 billion
Infrastructure investment: $21.4 billion
Employee expenses: $33.1 billion
Mental health levy revenue: $819 million
Gambling tax revenue: $2.4 billion
GSP: 3.25 per cent
Australian Associated Press
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