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Health reform: doctors rule « Previous | |Next »
February 21, 2005

I see that The Australian is running its Sustaining Prosperity Conference again in association with the Melbourne Institute. Health reform is the issue today and it is not just about tinkering with the federal/state adminstrative machinery.

These remarks by Mary Anne O'Loughlin are to the point on health reform in Australia:

We are constantly told of the high and increasing expenditure on healthcare. But the fact is too many health resources are used to provide services to people with diseases and conditions that are known to be preventable.

The implication is that more resources should be devoted to prevent people from becoming sick in the first place. That makes sense doesn't it. It is better public policy to help keep people from getting sick than treating them in hospital when they are sick. Cancer caused by smoking is a good example of this approach.

Mary Anne points out that:

Reform is needed, but the debate has focused more on waiting lists for elective surgery than preventing the need for admissions in the first place. Most of the ill health, disability and premature death in Australia today arise from chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and asthma. A large proportion of this is preventable.

Alas that approach to public health is not happening. Why?

Mary Anne O'Loughlin is quite clear on this. She says:

In Australia, the debate about healthcare reform is overly concerned with how to get more people into hospital more quickly. At the federal election last year, the centrepieces of both the Coalition and Labor health policies targeted access to hospitals: the Coalition through an extension to its private health insurance rebate; and Labor through its Medicare Gold policy...

The emphasis is hospitals, not on primary health care that prevents people from becoming sick and ending up in hospital.

And, we can add, on primary health care the focus is on doctors as gatekeepers to the health system and not on allied health professionals.

That heavy hospital/doctor emphasis is the key to health reform in Australia. The lock is the trade union politics that keep the doctors running the health system.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:21 PM | | Comments (0)