Health Care: A Disappointing Budget

Doctors Reform Society

“Why has health care been almost ignored in this year’s budget”, asks Dr Peter Davoren, Secretary, Doctors Reform Society. In January last year Health Minister Butler said, “Frankly I think our general practice right now is in the worst shape it has been in the 40-year history of Medicare,” His Strengthening Medicare Taskforce made many recommendations and the Minister said at the time that ‘a comprehensive revamp’ was required, including addressing ‘structural issues’.

What has happened since? Almost nothing. Patient enrolment with a general practice has been established but no other significant structural changes have been made. An increase in bulk billing incentive which ignores the working poor is an important minor tweak. “What we then expected”, says Dr Davoren, “was a gradual rollout of progressive changes to the way the Federal Government funded and organised care for the epidemic of chronic disease, and to do so in a way which reached the most vulnerable in our community.”

“This year’s Budget commits to new and more comprehensive funding of mental health but fails to anchor that care around GPs who are the one health professional groups seeing the majority of patients with mental health conditions. The funding is welcome but could have been better directed,” says Dr Davoren. “Urgent care clinics may be helpful but do nothing for the many patients struggling with chronic disease, unaffordable GPs, and long waiting times to see a regular GP. Nor do they do anything to provide comprehensive integrated primary health care.”

Apart from that, there are some small well directed initiatives, particularly to HIV, but little else of note.

The Budget does address multiple causes of cost-of-living stresses which are major contributors to poor health and these commitments are also welcome. But once again the most vulnerable miss out. The unemployed continue to live below the poverty line because Labor refuses to ‘raise the rate’ for the unemployed.

“We welcomed the Health Minister’s words last year”, says Dr Davoren. “Where then, is the action?”

Dr Peter Davoren

Secretary

Ph 0467338867

/Public Release.