Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to Medicare are placing unbearable pressure on hospitals in the Northern Territory and around Australia.
Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare Catherine King visited Alice Springs today to highlight the impact of the Government’s cuts on Central Australia.
Member for Lingiari and Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon hosted King for a tour of the Alice Springs Hospital. With 186 beds, it is the major hospital for Central Australia and treats around 60,000 patients a year.
King and Snowdon were joined by Member for Braitling and Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield.
The Australian Medical Association’s 2016 Public Hospital Report Card shows that the Alice Springs Hospital and other Territory hospitals struggled under the former Giles Government. Northern Territory public hospitals are not meeting their targets for emergency department or elective surgery waiting times. And the situation will only get worse thanks to Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to Medicare.
In his very first Budget, Turnbull extended the freeze on Medicare rebates to six years. The Rural Doctors Association has called this an “ice age” that will force bulk billing down and co-payments up, and drive more Australians into crowded emergency departments.
Turnbull is also cutting billions from the last Labor Government’s investment in public hospitals around Australia. His plan is to keep hospitals funded at the current level until at least 2020. But Territorians know that the status quo is not good enough.
“One in 20 Australians already delays or avoids seeing a GP because of cost”, said King. “Mr Turnbull’s Medicare freeze will force even more Territorians into public hospitals. And when they get there they’ll find even more crowded emergency departments and even longer waiting times for elective surgery, thanks to Mr Turnbull’s hospital cuts.”
“The last Labor Government made significant investments in Alice Springs Hospital”, said Snowdon. “We contributed almost $14 million to the new emergency department, and funded the Fred Hollows Foundation to undertake eye surgery blitzes here. In contrast, the Turnbull Government is cutting millions from hospitals in Alice Springs and around the Territory.”
“The new Gunner Labor Government has a strong commitment to improving Territory public hospitals”, said Wakefield. “But Malcolm Turnbull’s health cuts make it clear we need a Shorten Labor Government in Canberra, too.”
During the recent federal election campaign, Labor committed to reverse Malcolm Turnbull’s freeze on Medicare rebates. Labor also committed $2 billion more to public hospitals than the Liberals, including funding to reduce emergency department and elective surgery waiting times. Full details of Labor’s plans for Medicare and hospitals are available at http://www.100positivepolicies.org.au/a_stronger_medicare_for_all_australians_fact_sheet and http://www.100positivepolicies.org.au/stronger_medicare_strengthening_hospitals.
MONDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 2016