Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pre - Budget Review Of The Health Sector - 20th March 2014.

As we head towards the Budget in Early to Mid May 2014 I thought It would be useful to keep a closer eye than usual on what was being said regarding what we might see coming out of the Budget.
According to the Australian Parliament web site Budget Night will be on Tuesday 13th May, 2014.
Here are some of the more interesting articles I have spotted this week.

Cuts to Medicare support for PTSD cause sufferers more harm

Date March 10, 2014
An online petition by the Alliance for Better Access (ABA) pressure group calling for the Medicare cuts to be reversed has reached about 20,000 signatures.
Mary*, a Sydney woman in her 20s, has a recurring nightmare of her childhood. It is like the final scene in Apocalypse Now , where Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz loses his mind, only Mary dreams that her "abusive, warped, religious fundamentalist and controlling" mother is Brando amid the chaos and madness that was her early life.
Her mother probably had post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, she thinks, but because it was never treated she passed it down to the next generation.
One of Mary's siblings killed herself. Mary married an abusive man, and she thought she was to blame for the terrible way he treated her because she was conditioned, as a child, to accept abuse; that it was always her fault.

New boss walking the talk

4th Mar 2014
PROMINENT consumer advocate Carol Bennett tells MO why she agreed to take the reins at one of Australia’s leading MLs.
After five years at the helm of Australia’s best known consumer and patient advocacy group, Carol Bennett last month took over at one of the nation’s leading Medicare Locals.
The now former Consumers Health Forum CEO arrives at the Hunter Medicare Local — which covers Newcastle and surrounding areas of NSW — at a fascinating time for the organisation and the broader Medicare Locals scheme.
Shortly after the Coalition’s election victory in September last year, Health Minister Peter Dutton announced the ML program would be the subject of a full review. While in opposition, Mr Dutton had been heavily critical of MLs as one of the central planks of the Labor government’s health reform agenda. He repeatedly argued the ML initiative was set to waste millions duplicating bureaucracy rather than aiding or expanding patient services.

From the Ministry of Silly Promises

Alan Mitchell
Are Tony Abbott’s extravagant election promises coming back to haunt him as he confronts the reality of Labor’s fiscal legacy? It seems so.
First, Abbott’s colleagues were reported to be urging the Prime Minister to modify or delay his $5.5 billion a year paid parental leave scheme. The scheme will provide generous transfers to middle-class households and, on the international evidence, generate few additional public benefits.
Now, the government’s green paper on its proposed Emissions Reduction Fund – the centrepiece of its alternative to Labor’s emission trading scheme – has attracted withering criticism from the economist Ross Garnaut.
Garnaut conducted the review that led to Labor’s emission trade scheme, so you might suspect him of being biased. But he is also an internationally respected economist with a reputation riding on the quality of his analysis.
Of most concern to Abbott’s colleagues will be Garnaut’s warning about the potential cost of meeting the government’s emissions reduction target.

Co-payment would hurt rural health

11th Mar 2014
AMONG the roast dinners, seafood feasts and rich desserts of the Christmas period, the proposal to the National Commission of Audit for a $6 co-payment for general practice consultations certainly provided a talking point around many tables.
While the topic receded briefly, it is now back on the political agenda and has highlighted some important issues around the future direction of health policy, including the ongoing cost of healthcare services; how this expenditure can be put to best use; and issues of equity and access, particularly in rural areas.
The proposal is underpinned by an assumption that a $5 or $6 co-payment is low enough that it would not deter people from visiting a doctor if they absolutely needed to.

Fiona Nash's decision to axe drug and alcohol adviser has cost $1 million

Date March 13, 2014

Amy Corderoy

Health Editor, Sydney Morning Herald

The government has paid nearly a million dollars to cover its sudden axing of Australia's peak drug and alcohol body, documents reveal.
A leaked report from the administrator winding up the Alcohol and Other Drug Council of Australia shows the government has paid out more than $949,000 so far because of the decision by beleaguered Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash to cut the organisation's funding without notice.
Public health groups and former Liberal MP and council board president Mal Washer have said the decision was ill-informed, especially given the organisation cost only between $1.3 million and $1.6 million annually.

Inquiry into AHPRA finds confusion, complexity

13th Mar 2014
AHPRA remains a large and complex bureaucracy with potential confusion over lines of responsibility and accountability, a recent inquiry into the organisation has found.
The report also noted that AHPRA spent almost $1 million regulating just 300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners (ATSIHP) in 2012-13 despite the group contributing just $26,000 in registration fees.
The Department of Health’s submission to the inquiry acknowledged that the long term viability of the ATSIHP board was a concern given the high level of subsidisation it required to remain operational.
The analysis of the nation’s health professional regulator was released this week by the Victorian Parliament’s Legal and Social Issues Legislation Committee.
In submissions sent to the inquiry, doctors’ groups – along with MDOs – were highly critical of the regulator, complaining of substantial registration fee increases, poor communication to practitioners, registration errors made by AHPRA and drawn out complaints processes. 

Opposition health MP warns of further cuts to drug and alcohol agencies

Sarah Dingle reported this story on Thursday, March 13, 2014 12:30:00
ELEANOR HALL: The Labor Party is warning that the Federal Government's axing of one of the country's longest-running drug and alcohol bodies could be the forerunner to more cuts in other health organisations.
Figures reported today suggest that closure of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council will cost the Government almost a million dollars.
The Federal Government is currently conducting a review into drug and alcohol funding as Sarah Dingle reports.

Guild regrets having to cap services

13 March, 2014 Nick O'Donoghue 0 comments
Funding for pharmacy professional services would dry up without caps being imposed on the programs, George Tambassis, Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president says.
Mr Tambassis described the impact the decision to restrict accredited pharmacists to providing a maximum of 20 HMRs a month as "regretable", during the State of the Industry symposium at APP2014 today.
"The truth is we had no choice [but to implement the caps] as the Government insisted that the limited budgets for these services had to be enforced," he said.

Health minister flags pharmacy cuts

Joanna Heath
Health Minister Peter Dutton has signalled for the first time pharmacies will not be immune to the government’s search for savings in the health budget, delivering tough love to one of the most feared industry lobbies in the country.
But in a move that will disappoint supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles, Mr Dutton pledged to prevent the retailers from opening their own ­in-store ­pharmacies.
“I have met with hundreds of ­pharmacists in recent years and there are a number of propositions that have been put to me about how government should be providing support, which clearly is not within the remit of ­government,” Mr Dutton told a ­pharmacy industry conference on the Gold Coast on Thursday.

Dutton opens role to pharmacists

Date March 14, 2014
Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton has signalled the possibility of paying pharmacists to deliver a greater range of health services including vaccinations.
In a speech to pharmacists on the Gold Coast on Thursday, Mr Dutton said the nation needed ''all hands on deck'' to tackle massive growth in conditions such as obesity and dementia.
Describing pharmacy as ''a cornerstone to the delivery of not just medications but on a daily basis patient care'', Mr Dutton said he was open to discussions about paying pharmacists to deliver ''tangible services and interventions that will provide better patient outcomes''.
He also ruled out allowing ''retail giants'' such as Coles and Woolworths into pharmacy.

AMA warns about health screening scams

Date March 16, 2014

Neil McMahon

The head of the Australian Medical Association has launched a blistering attack on health screening services, labelling them a scam targeting the ''worried well'' with $200 scans in local RSLs, churches and scout halls.
Dr Steve Hambleton also backed warnings by the consumer organisation Choice that health screenings could both raise false alarms and give false hopes to patients targeted in a direct-mail campaign aimed mainly at people over 50.
''They are preying on the worried well and they are using the imprimatur of places like the RSL and the scout halls, which are respected in the community, so people think it must be OK,'' Dr Hambleton said.
It seems even clearer there is a significant change coming on the basis of this week’s news as well.
It really is interesting to see all the various kites being flown as to what might be in the gun to be cut back. Not long to wait now!
As usual - no real news on the PCEHR Review.
More next week.

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