Health industry voices its opinions as the #healthelection2016 looms

health funding around federal electionHealth organisations around the country have been lobbying for a greater share of the health spending dollar in the lead up to the election tomorrow. Federal Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, claims to have put patient outcomes at the centre of health reform in the Federal Budget released in May 2016, but many associations are saying that the budget is hurting both health professions and patients.

Pharmacy

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) stated that an elected Federal Government should consider exploring innovative models of interprofessional care and better utilising the role of pharmacists in healthcare as cost-effective, evidence-based reforms. PSA has called on the incoming Government to ensure that pharmacists’ skills are maximised to contribute to better health outcomes for all Australians.

Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, sent a support letter to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, confirming that the Coalition continues to support the model of pharmacies being owned by pharmacists. The Prime Minister also said that the established community pharmacy model continues to serve Australians well.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy Australia has been contacting Members of Parliament in marginal seats to deliver key policies:

  • Reversing the MBS indexation pause and primary health and chronic disease management
  • Ensuring the disability workforce is equipped and clearly outline the role of the Federal Government to deliver the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
  • Prioritising the fifth mental health plan, investing in program for mental health patients and the workforce, and developing clear targets for mental health services
  • Developing a nationally consistent approach to prescribing and accessing aids and equipment, and ensuring that the aged care workforce has the necessary skills to work across sectors.

Optometry

For optometry services, rebates have been frozen since 2012 and this, combined with a 5% cut in rebates in 2015 has already placed the cost of delivering eye care to Australians under immense pressure.

Optometry Australia CEO Genevieve Quilty said, “This is impacting disadvantaged and low income communities in particular, where often patients can’t afford out-of-pocket expenses yet optometrists can’t sustain viable practices on bulk-billing alone with reducing fees and increasing practice costs. The Government’s policy, if not reversed, will be likely to see some communities losing ready access to eye care.”

Medicine

Australian Medical Association (AMA) former President Professor Brian Owler, said that the medical profession has been united in its strident opposition to the Government’s Medicare freeze policy, and will campaign against it until it is withdrawn. Therefore, doctors and patients will welcome Labor’s pledge to lift the Medicare patient rebate freeze from 1 January 2017, if elected, which would deliver certainty.

The AMA has said that the $21 million the Coalition has allocated for the Health Care Homes trial is inadequate. Compared to this, Labor’s commitment to inject an extra $2 billion into the public hospital system and to provide $100 million for a trial of patient-centred medical homes in primary care has been welcomed.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said that an extra $2 billion over four years is a welcome short-term boost which will help take a lot of the pressure off hospital emergency departments and reduce waiting times for treatment.

On 26 May 2016, The AMA released its Plan for Better Health Care for Regional, Rural, and Remote Australia. The plan proposes a focus on four key areas – rebuilding country hospital infrastructure; supporting recruitment and retention; encouraging more young doctors to work in rural areas; and supporting rural practices.

Professor Owler said that the AMA firmly believes that the standard of health care and access to health care can be lifted in regional, rural, and remote Australia, but it needs significant real funding increases.

Royal Australasian College Of Surgeons (RACS) has identified five key focus areas relevant to the 2016 Australian Federal Election:

  • Maintaining high quality and timely access to healthcare
  • Recognition of the burden of trauma on the healthcare system
  • National leadership to reduce alcohol-related harm
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • Surgical training and academic pathways

Political parties were invited to repose those key issues on relevant to the delivery of surgical, and the results then distributed to its membership and the public.

Physiotherapy

Despite the fact that physiotherapy is often treated as a luxury, the Australian Physiotherapy Australia (APA) believes that physiotherapy-led recommendations must be prioritised by the next Australian government to achieve a fairer and more efficient health system. They say that all Australians should have equal access to physiotherapy as it will bring improved health outcomes leading to cost savings.

The APA has identified three priority areas that the incoming government should address to ensure all Australians enjoy the best health and wellbeing:

  • Ensuring equitable access to physiotherapy
  • Reducing unnecessary hospitalisation
  • Scaling up physiotherapy-led injury prevention

Exercise and Sport Science

Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) has urged all political parties to focus on the future health of Australians before it’s too late. ESSA CEO Anita Hobson-Powell said, “For too long we have relied on a ‘band aid’ mentality, which does not adequately address the challenges we are facing. We need comprehensive, systemic changes that will create an effective cross-sectoral approach to healthcare, including preventative health care.”

ESSA is focusing on four key areas that need urgent attention. These include optimising aged care services, increased contributions to the delivery of mental health care services, reducing avoidable hospitalisations and re-admissions, and creating better integration and coordination of Medicare services.

Nursing

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) held a national phone-in two weeks before the election for aged care staff and community to share their stories. The ANMF Federal Secretary, Lee Thomas, said that they would listen because they know that aged care nurses and AINs often feel their hands are tied because of understaffing and lack of resources.

In line with the AMA, the AMNF has welcomed Labor party’s promise to inject additional funding into frontline healthcare if it wins the election. “ANMF members will be relieved that Labor has promised to invest $4.9 billion in healthcare which will start reversing the Coalition’s devastating cuts. These announcements are taking our public health system in the right direction by returning resources to assist nurses and midwives to deliver expert care to the community.” Ms Thomas said.

Dentistry

The Australian Dental Association (ADA), via Dr Rick Olive has welcomed the Greens Dental Policy for its considered and staged approach to a long term sustainable solution. The foundations of the Greens dental Policy mirror the ADA’s own Dental Health Plan.

Dr Olive said, “The Greens’ plan for dental care recognises that the public dental system is already under resourced and stretched to capacity. Success in improved oral health outcomes for Australians will only be achieved if governments make good use of the existing workforce and infrastructure that exists in private practice.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership organisations came together to launch The Redfern Statement. The alliance is calling for an immediate restoration of the $534 million funding cut from the Indigenous Affairs Portfolio. The statement also calls for the next Federal Government to commit to better and ongoing engagement with ATSI peoples, working with ATSI leaders and establish a Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs in the future.

“We have barely seen a mention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy or issues this election campaign. That changes today (at the launch of The Redfern Statement). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups have come together to demand urgent action. It is time that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are heard and respected. It is time for action.” said Dr Jackie Huggins, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

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Image: Ohmega1982 – freedigitalphotos.net

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