Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker.
Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker.

Rural health is safe, says Saffin

MEMBER for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker was ‘clutching at straws’ with claims the Rudd Government’s Health Reform package would close small rural hospitals such as Maclean, Member for Page Janelle Saffin said yesterday.

In fact, Ms Saffin said, the proposed activity-based funding would benefit rural areas and small hospitals with proper funding.

Also, Ms Saffin said, Mr Hartsuyker’s claim the reform would create more bureaucracy was ‘ludicrous’ and showed the Member for Cowper had not read the policy document.

Mr Hartsuyker said the policy had not been clear as to whether Area Health Services would be replaced by the proposed Hospital Networks or whether they would be in addition to them.

But, according to the National Health and Hospitals Network for Australia’s Future document, the Commonwealth Government would ‘change the way hospitals are run, taking control from central bureaucracies and handing it to Local Hospital Networks’.

The 82-page document also states the Federal Government would pay Local Hospital Networks directly for each hospital service they provide, rather than by a block grant from the Commonwealth to the States.

Ms Saffin said the Coalition had no credibility on health after it ripped a billion dollars out of public hospitals during the Howard reign.

“They reduced the Commonwealth contribution to hospitals from 42.9 per cent to 38.6 per cent – that’s from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, not the Labor Party,” Ms Saffin said.

Ms Saffin said the policy’s activity-based funding model recognised the extra cost of health provision in rural areas and would be weighted accordingly.

The proposal will be put to the States at the next council of Australian Governments meeting on April 11.

Chair of Grafton Base Hospital’s medical staff council Dr Allan Tyson applauded the concept of the Federal Government’s proposal, saying it would benefit Grafton and the North Coast and would address previous inequities in funding as identified in the Garling report of 2008. But Dr Tyson raised concerns about exactly how the extra cost of rural service delivery would be covered and whether teaching facilities would be disadvantaged because of their extra costs.

Also, Dr Tyson raised concern about the short term because the Federal ‘takeover’ was not scheduled till 2014. He called on the sitting State National Party MPs to commit to funding the shortfall in the area’s health budget if, as expected, the Opposition took Government next March.

Clarence MP Steve Cansdell said he would push to ensure commitments made by Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell in November 2008 were followed through.

These commitments, he said, included ensuring the North Coast Area Health Service received its fair share of funding as set out by the Resource Distribution Formula.

REFORMS

The Commonwealth Government:

  •   becomes the majority funder of public hospitals;
  •   takes over all funding and policy responsibility for GP and primary health care services;
  •   dedicates around one-third of annual GST allocations currently directed to state and territory governments to fund this change in responsibilities;
  •   changes the way hospitals are run, giving control to Local Hospital Networks; and
  •   changes the way hospitals are funded, by paying Local Hospital Networks directly for each hospital service they provide.

 From the National Health and Hospitals Network for Australia’s Future document



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