For taxpayers and patients, health reform is essential
There’s a reason health reform has featured in our national debate for decades. There’s a reason it is contentious, difficult and often tops out surveys as the biggest concern for Australians.
It’s because if we don’t get it right then it hits our family members directly – everyone wants the best care when they’re sick. Queues and waiting times that go for too long. More suffering than is necessary.
Every family knows a situation where the care of a loved one could have been improved if doctors, nurses and health staff had better support, more resources and bureaucracy didn’t get in the way.
So the stakes are high – and they’re growing in equal proportions to the ageing population. Getting it right isn’t about politicians and bureaucracy – it is about patients, doctors and nurses. Enough care for Australians to go around now and in the future.
The national health reform we have secured will help to take us there. $20 billion extra from the Federal Government is being invested.
We’ve learnt from the past that you can’t expect more of public hospitals if you’re squeezing their budgets at the same time. That was the tactic of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Abbott. It just didn’t work. The result was hospitals suffering from chronic underfunding.
The better way is that the Government should partner with hospitals – to get them the beds and staff they need and the reforms to stretch the dollars further.
Our 50-50 partnership on the growth of hospital expenditure means hospitals will never again be squeezed by a Federal Government cutting funding while states have to shoulder more of the pressure and vice-versa. Coupled with our extra funding – we are dragging the system into the 21st century.
New efficient pricing will be implemented so dollars are spent more wisely. We’ll properly report on hospital performance so that problem areas can be identified and improved. Hospitals will have increased local governance through new Local Hospital Networks.
In 2008 we were the first Federal Government to invest directly in improving elective surgery and emergency departments with over a billion dollars. That meant more operations, more space in emergency departments and new modern equipment that are all improving the care for patients.
Well we’ve now more than doubled that funding. Over three billion dollars extra will go towards opening 1,300 more beds and bringing waiting times into line with what is best for that patient as judged by doctors not bureaucrats.
But the ideal situation for patient is that you want to avoid being in hospital if you can.
Of course there are some emergencies and illnesses you can’t prevent or expect. But for many diabetes and chronic heart disease patients, for example, they can receive better care outside of hospital which can significantly improve their quality of life.
So we are embarking upon our biggest boost to health care outside of hospital for a long time. It is called primary health care, the frontline of the system. Four out of five contacts with the health system are with primary health care, not in hospitals.
We’re overseeing a deployment of massive proportions. More GPs, more nurses, more after hours services, more tele-health services, more GP Super Clinics. For a government it is win-win-win: you can slow the demand for hospitals, patients benefit from staying healthier and the economy benefits from healthier working Australians.
Against this backdrop Tony Abbott is continuing to oppose every dollar and every reform – even though this agreement now has the signatures of both Labor and Liberal Premiers. He has no actual plan of his own which just proves that it’s possible for hot air to survive in a vacuum.
I’m not going to be distracted by his sideshow. We’re going to push on to deliver these changes. Having the resources and agreement to make patients’ lives better is the best position a Health Minister can be in.
My major focus this term of Government will be the implementation of reform – to benefit patients and taxpayers.
What we’ve undertaken is one of the most complex reforms health in Australia has ever seen. It follows in the footsteps of other Labor reforms – like the PBS and Medicare – that have given Australian patients the right care without undue financial burden.
We strongly believe that these reforms will play a vital role of improving the lives of patients in decades to come.
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