This blog is totally independent and has only three major objectives.
The first is to inform readers of news and happenings in the e-Health domain, both here in Australia and world-wide.
The second is to provide commentary on e-Health in Australia and to foster improvement where I can.
The third is to encourage discussion of the matters raised in the blog so hopefully readers can get a balanced view of what is really happening and what successes are being achieved.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Pre - Budget Review Of The Health Sector - 16th April 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.
If ever a Treasurer has had a spinning-plate trick on his hands, it's Joe Hockey. When he returns from his G20 discussions in the US, Hockey will need every ounce of skill to keep the sticks and plates spinning lest one should fall, bringing the economy down with it.
What are the plates? In no particular order, the main ones are: the housing market, the Aussie dollar, business and consumer confidence, business investment, the jobs market and immigration.
Spend too long spinning one, and the others lose momentum. It really will be an extraordinary achievement if Hockey can pay attention to them all, and avoid a once in a generation tumble in living standards.
STATE governments are concerned that health bureaucracies established by the former federal Labor government are straying beyond their charter and flouting the intent of approaches agreed at the Council of Australian Governments.
Federal, state and territory health ministers meeting in Brisbane yesterday were understood to have voiced concerns about several national bodies and asked their advisory body to investigate their activities.
The independent agencies were established by the Rudd-Gillard governments to drive the health reform process. They include the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority, the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, the National Health Funding Body and the National Health Performance Authority.
The Guild’s Pharmacy Under Threat campaign is reaching a vital stage.
No one at the Guild is under any illusion about the difficulty of the task. We know the Government is broke and the Minister has said there is no money to address the impact of the pre-election changes to price disclosure on pharmacies.
However this is not about money. It is about breaching the Community Pharmacy Agreement with Australia’s 5300 community pharmacies.
For that reason, the Guild’s National President George Tambassis has made clear to the Minister personally that the Guild will continue to campaign until this injustice is satisfactorily addressed.
Employee pharmacists are being encouraged to make sure they know their rights redundancy rights following the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s recent Employment Expectations Report.
The report predicted as many as 2200 pharmacist jobs could be axed this year, as pharmacies struggle to manage the impact of price disclosure.
However, Dr Geoff March, Professional Pharmacists Australia president, warned that “unscrupulous pharmacy operators” may use the Guild’s forecast as an excuse to cut staff, only to re-hire pharmacists on lower wages.
Treatment delays: Patients are being put off visiting GPs because of expensive medical fees and long waiting lists.
Year-long waiting lists and high medical fees are causing people in NSW to stop or delay treatment, health professionals say.
A Bureau of Health Information report shows that despite NSW having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, 15per cent of patients put off GP visits, filling a prescription and getting basic medical tests because of out-of-pocket expenses.
One third did not see the dentist because they could not afford to.
THE architect of the controversial $6 GP fee proposal, Tony Abbott adviser Terry Barnes, says patients with minor ailments attending emergency departments should be charged $36.
The possible charge, floated as a measure to deter people from avoiding the proposed Medicare co-payment for GP services by presenting at emergency departments with minor ailments, has been flatly rejected by South Australian Health Minister Jack Snelling, who will demand the scrapping of any plans to charge public-health patients when he meets federal and state counterparts on Friday.
“We spend tens of millions of dollars on avoidable admissions to hospital, conditions that would not be there if people had good access to GPs,” he said. “It is already hard for many people to access a GP. Whacking an extra cost to see a GP and then to a ED won’t help people. I will not be blithely going along with my Liberal colleagues on this.”
Try to think of an industry in which highly qualified operators have clients willing to pay them for services rendered but in which government says no. And it’s not the production of crystal methamphetamine?
Sadly, the answer is healthcare with both doctors and consumers the losers.
Thankfully, led by Health Minister Peter Dutton we’re now having a discussion on the absurdity of current commercial restraints imposed upon doctors and health insurers. In a nutshell, existing laws restrain insurers from paying or contributing towards mainstream medical services provided by GPs, as well as those provided outside a hospital by specialists (i.e. those services with a Medicare scheduled benefit).
Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton says he will talk with the Giles Government about ways to improve health services in the Northern Territory after dumping a planned GP super-clinic in Darwin's northern suburbs.
The former federal Labor Government set aside $5 million for the project in 2010 but it has never got off the ground.
Mr Dutton says super clinics around the country have failed to reduce hospital waiting times and the money would be better spent on hospital beds.
IIn the lead-up to the May budget, the seemingly inexorable rise in health spending has unleashed a “sustainability panic”: rhetoric that health system costs are out of control and drastic measures are…
Director, Health Program at Grattan Institute
In the lead-up to the May budget, the seemingly inexorable rise in health spending has unleashed a “sustainability panic”: rhetoric that health system costs are out of control and drastic measures are needed to make the system affordable.
Sustainability panic is often used to justify shifting the burden of controlling health spending from the wider society to a vulnerable few – people with poor health who frequently go to doctors and hospitals, for example, or those with high needs and potentially shortened life expectancy. Proposals to limit access to care or to introduce co-payments for doctor visits would fall heavily on these groups.
Rationing health care is seen as a potential solution to the presumed cost explosion; the alternative being tax increases or some other unpalatable solution.
QUEENSLAND doctors will be spared from worrying about the profitability of their hospital under a state government concession on contracts.
Senior medical officers have threatened to quit over the individual contracts, which need to be signed by 30 April.
But in a move to end the long-running dispute, the government has offered to remove an existing clause where doctors could be sacked if their work impedes the profitability of their local health service.
Lobby group Keep Our Doctors feared medicos would think twice before keeping patients in for longer, or doing a costly experimental treatment.
THE company contracted to deliver a super clinic in Darwin is assessing its future and legal rights today after it was told by the Department of Health that the project has been suspended.
The Darwin super clinic is one of three projects suspended by the Coalition in what is understood to be a broader move to recoup up to $27 million in allocated but unspent super clinic funding.
Operators of the $7 million Perth-based Rockingham GP super clinic and the $15 million Wynnum super clinic in Brisbane – both in the planning and development stages – have also been advised by the department that their funding has been suspended.
THE federal government has suspended funding to three GP super clinics promised under Labor’s bungled $650 million rollout and will audit a dozen more after it was discovered that they had been sitting on millions of dollars of taxpayers money since 2010 without a sod being turned.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that Health Minister Peter Dutton has ordered that funding of $25 million be suspended to at least three of the clinics, in Darwin, Rockingham south of Perth and Brisbane, and will seek to recover the money.
All three super clinics were promised by Labor in 2010, yet construction has not started on any of them.
The drumbeat suggesting a tough budget has been building. The final report of the Commission of Audit (COA) has been handed to Government and as I predicted we are starting to see some hints and leaks.
Economically we now have the Treasurer as well as both the Reserve Bank Governor and the Secretary of The Treasury saying we have very serious budgetary problems - and we can be sure all three have seen the COA.
Really it seems to me the only question is just how big the cuts are and where they will fall. I suspect the answer is pretty big and everywhere! If the leaks are to be believed the age pension and the health sector are in line for a major shakeup.
To remind people there is also a great deal of useful discussion here from The Conversation.