The Grattan Institute’s report on primary care highlights the need for smarter and better investment in primary care, and for the Turnbull Government to end its war on general practice.
The report finds ineffective management of heart disease, asthma, diabetes and other chronic diseases leads to more than a quarter of a million avoidable hospital admissions every year, costing the Australian health system at least $320 million. The report notes that other estimates are as high as $2 billion a year.
All of the evidence internationally is that the stronger a country’s primary care system, the better its health outcomes are.
We know from a number of studies that health systems with strong primary care are more efficient, have lower rates of hospitalisation, fewer health inequalities and better health outcomes including lower mortality, than those that do not.
It is especially disappointing therefore that general practice has been so continually devalued and attacked by this Government though its GP Tax, four year Medicare freeze and massive cuts to heath.
In Government Labor encouraged new models of practice through the introduction of bundled Medicare payments for the treatment of chronic disease, established GP Super Clinics which integrated allied health workers into general practices and established of Medicare Locals to continue to reform primary care at the local level.
Labor also commenced work on developing an Australian model for patient-centred medical homes and developed the National Primary Healthcare Strategy.
All of this reform work came to a grinding halt with the election of the Abbott/Turnbull Government. For example, the Grattan report notes that the Turnbull Government’s decision to break its election promise and abolish Medicare Locals means that Primary Health Networks “are still new and most currently do not have the capacity to take on the roles proposed”.
So far all we have seen are cuts to primary care, a multitude of reviews and short term Budget savings placed ahead of long term investment in health.
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.