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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

cracks in the health system? « Previous | |Next »
February 25, 2004

Health continues to bubble along as an central issue in public policy circles. It's an issue that continues to favour the ALP. Bulk billing rates are declining; doctor's costs are rising; and attendances at doctor's practices are down. So what is going on here? What is happening if people are not going to see the doctor when they are sick?

Some---concessional card holders----are accessing the emergency departments of public hospitals. The others? The inference is that many of the working poor are not accessing the public health system. But it is not as simple as bulk-billing rates are disappearing and more people are turning up at hospital casualty departments, placing greater financial strain on a system funded federally but administered at state level. It means that people remain sick until they are faced with an emergency.

Here is the speech of Julia Gilliard, the ALP's Shadow Minister for Health, to the Australian Financial Review's 6th Annual Health Congress.

The AMA says that the key to evaluating our health system for patients, is being able to see a doctor when we need one.

Well, they've got that right. Speaking at a speech to the Financial Review's 6th Annual Health Congress Bill Glasson, the President of the AMA, goes on to say:

"Itís not as easy to get hold of a doctor when you need one these days, especially in country or outer-suburban areas. The concept of universal access to health care has eroded. Many Australians are paying more for their health care because Medicare has been neglected. But it doesnít have to be that way. If we can find money for border protection and offshore detention centres, we can properly fund our health system."

That is a perspective that is widely shared by public opinion. Whilst the Howard Government talks about spending the budget surplus on tax cuts, the majority of Australians (around 72%) want the budget surrplus to be spent on health and education.

Glasson then socks in the hits:

"Medicine has traditionally been the top of the heap of career choice for our best and brightest students.That reputation is slipping away.

Too many bloody hurdles. Too much intervention.

The doctor-patient relationship does not want or need a Treasury official as note-taker. The doctor-patient relationship does not need the ACCC to brand rosters and job-sharing as anti-competitive. Student doctors should not be press-ganged into serving in country areas. A doctor should practice where he or she wants to practice, but incentives are needed to attract them to work in more remote areas.Red tape is strangling general practice. The Medicare patient rebate is dudding the patient.

These are causing massive damage to the system."

This is the restrained response by Tony Abbott, the federal health Minister. The Howard Government is doing a good job of managing the massive health system in a responsible and innovative way, despite the expense and cost blowout.

However, Abbott is reported in The Australian as being more provocative. He is reported as saying (p.5) that instead of the states laying blame on Canberra for the things that go wrong, the states should hand responsility for health to the commonwealth in the spirit of co-operative federalism.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:04 PM | | Comments (8)


Cracks? Those of us working in it can tell you that there are great gaping crevasses. There's always a temptation to blame the incumbent federal government and to relieve the states of responsibility for any cockups, but when Carr (NSW) pulled $40M from the 2000 health budget handed down by the Howard Government...what can one say.

I am sick to death of successive governments saying one thing and doing another. In NSW even now their public relations say "we are spending more on health" at the same time as every health area has had funding PULLED in its millions this year. They lie and deceive at every level and in every party. And the losers are those at ground zero. The patients.

"more nurses" and "more doctors" is not going to solve the problem.


I forgot to mention that the reason that $40M got pulled in Y2K was because the Olympics fund was a bit short. Great reason to sacrifice the health of NSW citizens. Also demonstrates the priorities...*really* clearly.

It is the same in SA. The Rann Labor Government is pulling millions from health.At the same time their spin is announcing that they are spending more.

I was in a hurry yesterday and forgot the question mark. As the next post indicates I'm interested in the way public language is being used by our politicians.

Health is a good example of the decay of public language from words being used to disguise everyday reality.

Indeed you are right. Language can be made to perform on the highwire as frequently as statistics can be found lurking in a clown suit. Nothing is ever as it seems. (please forgive the analogy. dodgy at best)

Tight budgets mean cutbacks in health. In the long term that means public health services (eg., hospitals) collapsing under the pressure.

In Adelaide some hospitals are asking cancer patients to bring their own catheters and sterilizing solutions!

That is what we are seeing around the country:long waiting lists. Lists that keep getting longer for orthopaedic surgery, for ears nose and throat (ENT)for children.

Some say teh long lists (several years) is due to a shortage of specialsts (eg., anaesthetists & ENT). Others say there is a shortage of beds and theatre facitilties.

And we have dropping health standards.

"In Adelaide some hospitals are asking cancer patients to bring their own catheters and sterilizing solutions! "

Which ones?

Since I care for a cancer patient, I might just make the point that there's been nothing but top quality care seen from our end.

That's not to say that there's not disaster areas in the health system. But it doesn't correspond with the experience we are having.


Take a glance at Friday's Advertiser

The source is Dean Brown, the Liberal party Shadow Minister for Health.