Federal Labor Department promises Medicare overhaul as Australian health system declared ‘worst’ in 40 years

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government intends to act on recommendations from a Medicare task force report calling for an overhaul of Australia’s health care system, but has said it will discuss funding for it in late April. increase.

This comes after Commonwealth Health Minister Mark Butler declared Australia’s primary health care system to be in ‘the worst shape’ in 40 years. Consolidated billing rates have declined and only 14% of medical graduates choose to work in general practice.

“Australians have a right to access to a world-class primary care system designed and funded for the 21st century. It’s a reflection of our profile,” Butler said in February. .3 media release It coincided with the first national ministerial meeting of the year.

At the February 3 National Ministerial Meeting, state and territory leaders, along with the Prime Minister, submitted a report on strengthening the Medicare Task Force (pdf) included improving the affordability and accessibility of healthcare for Australians, supporting people with chronic health conditions and relieving pressure from a strained hospital system.

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Medicare logo in Sydney, Australia, May 23, 2016. (Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

The report also called for a person-centred approach to be the focus of reform, including recommendations to improve access to general practice, optimize coverage for health professionals, and improve the My Health Record system. I was.

“The report recommends supporting this with a new mixed financing model that is integrated with the existing fee-based service model, which will allow GPs, nurses, midwives, and related health professionals to Teams will be able to work together to provide the care people need,” Butler said.

“The Task Force has found that a broader range of health professionals working across the spectrum of practice to enhance primary care can optimize the use of health workers across the expanded primary care sector. , better access to health care and greater equity of outcomes in rural, regional and remote areas.”

Albanese said consolidating the system so patients get better, earlier, and therefore cheaper care is key to advancing reforms in the primary care system. I was.

“We all understand the challenges … there is an absolute commitment to improving the primary care network, how it interacts with the hospital system, and addressing policy outcomes as a starting point. Yes,” Albanese said on Feb. 3.

Peak Medical Institutions Still Not Convinced

But while welcoming the review, Steve Robson, president of the Australian Medical Association, said the report also found that those struggling to see a general practitioner or facing a long waiting list for surgery had to wait. An Australian said nothing could guarantee that he would be seen more quickly or at a more affordable price.

“There is absolutely nothing in the report that will give us anything immediately. That’s what we need,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“Australians could see the health care system in crisis and were surprised that nothing[from the national cabinet]came out.

“We brought together the most powerful political leaders in the country, and they didn’t seem to agree on anything.”

Mr Robson added Australians were fed up with the Commonwealth Labor Party blaming the previous coalition government for health care problems.

“You’ve been in government long enough. It’s 2023. We need to own this issue. We need to have a national plan,” Robson said.

Albanese said health care reform was “a top priority for 2023” for Australia’s leaders.

“We all agree … part of the problem is people showing up to emergency departments because they have no other options,” Albanese said.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler also announced that the federal government will contribute $750 million to the Enhanced Medicare Fund.

“For 40 years Medicare has been the crowning achievement of our healthcare system, but now is the time to transform it. Now is the time to ensure that Medicare provides the kind of primary care Australians expect. .

GP waiting time increase: ABS data

November 2022, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released data showing that 39.1% of people who needed urgent medical care during the 2021-2022 fiscal year waited more than 24 hours to see a GP.

People living in out-of-town, remote, or very remote areas were more likely to wait 24 hours or more to see a GP for emergency medical care.

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An undated image of a medical professional performing neurosurgery at Greenslopes Private Hospital, operated by Ramsay Health Care, Brisbane, Australia. (AAP Image/Ramsay Healthcare)

Additionally, ABS found that a percentage of people waited longer than they felt was acceptable to get an appointment with a general practitioner or specialist.

According to ABS, “the percentage of people who were unable to see their desired GP at least once increased from 25.5% in 2020-21 to 32.8% in 2021-22.”

Furthermore, in 2021-2022, 16.6% of people have seen at least one health care professional for their mental health, compared to 15.8% in 2020-21.

“From 2021 to 2022, 34.5% of people who needed to consult a health care professional for their (up from 30.5% in 2021).”

Additionally, according to ABS, women were more likely than men to consult a health care professional for their mental health: 20.6% versus 12.3%.