Just five weeks out from the Abbott Government’s second Budget, Health policy in Australia is in crisis due to funding cuts and policy paralysis.
In its first Budget the Abbott Government ripped $57 billion out of public hospitals, announced plans to slug Australians with a GP Tax and higher charges for medicines and slashed a range of crucial health programs.
The consequences of those decisions are now starting to impact across the health sector yet the Minister’s only response has been paralysis and confusion.
Despite promising no Medicare Local would close the government has terminated the contracts of all 61 from June 30 this year. But just weeks before the replacement Primary Health Networks are due to start, tenders have still not been awarded, forcing staff to quit and crucial services to be lost.
Progress on eHealth which had the potential to save lives and slash health costs has been halted with more uncertainty as to what’s happening with this vital reform.
Prevention programs that improve health outcomes and reduce costs and strain on the health Budget have been gutted.
The minister continues to push for yet another reworking of her three-times failed GP Tax, this time in the guise of freeze on Medicare rebates, but again, just weeks before this is due to start impacting on patients through ever increasing gap payments, no details have been confirmed.
Funding for range of services in drug and alcohol, mental health and rural health programs is still uncertain beyond 2016, with the minister instead opting for a one year delay, continuing the chaos and confusion well into the next year.
Just days before specialist training colleges were due to begin interviewing candidates, the minister announced she would only provide funding for another 12 months, delaying for another year a decision on whether to commit to this crucial programme.
After spending its first year gutting $57 billion from hospitals and trying to come up with different ways to slug Australians with a GP Tax, it seems the minister has now decided to try to destroy the health system through policy paralysis.
Australians deserve better than a minister who puts every tough decision in her portfolio in the too hard basket, and simply kicks the can down the road for another 12 months.
Australians deserve better than a government which only ever sees health as a source for Budget cuts.
Only Labor believes in Medicare, and only Labor will protect Medicare and build the health system for the 21st Century that Australian deserve.