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.

Hockey must work an economic miracle

Rob Burgess 11 Apr, 5:32 PM
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 health ministers claim bureaucracies out of line

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.

Pharmacy central to the community

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.

Peter Dutton considers plan to withhold family tax benefits if children aren't immunised

April 11, 2014
An expert has warned the Federal Government that withholding tax benefits from families who choose not to immunise their children is unlikely to achieve real change.
Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton will discuss the issue when he meets with his state counterparts in Brisbane today.
The minister vowed to tackle the problem while touring the New South Wales north coast, where some communities have low childhood vaccination rates.
Mr Dutton says it might be time for the Government to take a tougher stance, adding that immunisation is "very important" for children and the wider community.

Commonwealth considers withholding payments to immunisation objectors

April 10, 2014
The Federal Government is considering withholding tax benefits from families in the region who choose not to immunise their children.
Federal Health Minister, Peter Dutton, will discuss the issue with his state counterparts in Brisbane tomorrow.
The minister vowed to tackle the problem while touring the north coast, where some communities have childhood vaccination rates below 50 per cent.

Union fears Guild report may spark redundancies

10 April, 2014 Nick O'Donoghue
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.

GP in court win over super clinic

8th Apr 2014
THE department of health has been court ordered to review a district of workforce shortage (DWS) application it rejected for a $10 million GP super clinic in Queensland.
The Townsville-based centre is expected to open in June, but operator Dr Evan Nicholls has been running an interim super clinic service nearby employing four international medical graduates (IMGs).
In 2012, the department refused to allow him to maintain the arrangement at the new clinic just 2km away, which would have maintained the IMGs’ eligibility for provider numbers.

Healthcare put at risk as patients shy away from cost

Date April 10, 2014 - 1:01AM

Lucy Carroll

Health Reporter

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 Australian Medical Association blasts consideration of a fee for visiting emergency departments

Louise Yaxley reported this story on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 18:10:00
DAVID MARK: The Australian Medical Association is heavily critical of an idea to impose a charge for people who present at hospital emergency departments with minor problems.
The rapidly rising cost of health means the Federal Government's considering new measures in the budget to make Medicare more sustainable, including the emergency charge.
The AMA says charging people for some visits to emergency departments won't save money and could instead drive up health costs by deterring people from seeking help until a problem is severe.
The Opposition's already on the attack.

Health Minister Jack Snelling wants plans to charge hospital emergency fees for minor ailments scrapped

  • The Advertiser
  • April 09, 2014 10:58PM
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.”

Doors set to open on new GP super clinic

By Kate Stephens
9 April, 2014
The company building a multi-million-dollar GP super clinic in north-west Queensland says the facility is due to open in weeks.
Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton has halted funding for three super clinics across the country and is reviewing others.
The Mount Isa clinic was first announced by the Labor government in 2007, and Kinetic Health, which is now Sonic Youth Plus, was awarded $5 million to build the facility.

Riverina MP says Narrandera GP Superclinic is funded, but can't rule out cuts in the future

April 9, 2014
The Member for Riverina says the government's decision to reduce funding for Labor's GP Superclinic program, will not impact local facilities.
Federal Health Minister, Peter Dutton, announced yesterday the government was suspending construction funding for three clinics.
Under the $650m scheme 60 clinics were funded around the country, including one at Narrandera, opening in 2011.

'Hospital tax' a Labor scare: Dutton

11:42am April 9, 2014
The Abbott government has accused Labor of mounting a "disgraceful and alarmist" scare campaign over reports patients who crowd emergency departments with minor ailments may be charged.
The government is reportedly considering a plan to deter people from visiting emergency departments by charging them if they show up with minor complaints such as stubbed toes or common colds.
The proposal would come as part of the possible introduction of a $6 Medicare co-payment, which many believe would lead to hospital overcrowding, News Corp Australia reported on Wednesday.

Time to adopt NZ health insurance model

Mark Fitzgibbon
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 Government moves to dismantle Labor's GP super-clinic program

By political reporter Anna Henderson
Posted Tue 8 Apr 2014, 2:22pm AEST
The Federal Government is moving to dismantle Labor's GP super-clinic program by trying to claw back money from centres that are yet to be built.
GP super-clinics with longer opening hours, more staff and broad medical services were a major plank of Labor's health policy in government, with $650 million earmarked for 60 clinics.
But Health Minister Peter Dutton has criticised the slow building process and the cost of the scheme.

Darwin super-clinic dumped as federal Health Minister Peter Dutton moves to claw back funds

Posted Tue 8 Apr 2014, 3:22pm AEST
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.
8 April 2014, 2.41pm AEST

Rationing care vs increasing taxes – the health system sustainability myth

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…
Stephen Duckett
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.

Doctors' contracts dispute: AMA urges doctors to consider signing as changes made

By Ashleigh Stevenson
Posted 7 hours 25 minutes ago
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says changes to the Queensland Government's controversial new contracts for doctors should address some major concerns.
Doctors have been threatening to quit the state's public hospital system en masse over the proposed contracts.
The State Government says sticking points regarding rosters and unfair dismissal have been addressed in an addendum that will be rolled into the agreements.

'Profitability' clause concession in Qld contract dispute

8th Apr 2014
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.

Super clinics scrapped

8th Apr 2014
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.

Super clinics will be scrapped: Labor’s $650 million ‘dangerous’ healthcare ‘disaster’ abandoned

  • April 08, 2014 12:00AM
·  exclusive simon benson national political reporter
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.
As usual - no real news on the PCEHR Review.
More next week.

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