- Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says she will not guarantee savings from the Government’s new bulk billing plan will go towards the Medical Research Future Fund.
- The Federal Department of Agriculture has written to Chinese authorities demanding assurances that measures are in place to prevent further contamination of frozen berries.
- The AMA welcomes today’s Close the Gap Campaign Report and the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap Report as important reminders of how much more needs to be done to genuinely close the life expectancy and health quality gaps experienced by Indigenous Australians.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 19th February 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says she will not guarantee savings from the Government’s new bulk billing plan will go towards the Medical Research Future Fund.
The federal budget revealed the Government’s plan to charge bulk billed patients $7 to see a doctor and put the proceeds in a new medical research fund.
But in December the policy could not pass through the Senate and was dumped in favour of a $5 payment charged at a doctor’s discretion.
The fund was established on January 1 with a $1 billion deposit from within the health portfolio.
That same month, and within weeks of becoming health minister, Ms Ley then scrapped key parts of the new plan, stating she wanted to consult doctors.
She has now said she cannot guarantee the revenue from the proposal will go into the fund.
Asked whether she thought the medical community agreed with the proceeds of a copayment going towards the future fund, Ms Ley said: “When I ask doctors about the medical research future fund, they’re supportive of it.
“And anybody who recognises the value that that research adds cannot possibly say that it’s not something we should go along with.”
The Health Minister said she “did not want to pick a fight with doctors” as she consulted on the Government’s plans and added that there had been “no fight in any of the consultations that I’ve had so far”.
Ms Ley said she was holding consultations about the plan in New South Wales … and released a series of figures she said backed the Government’s push to charge some patients more money.
She added that New South Wales had the highest GP bulk billing rate in the nation, with nearly nine in 10 visits to doctors bulk billed, adding that the value of Medicare claims in the state had more than doubled in the past decade to more than $6 billion per year.
The Federal Department of Agriculture has written to Chinese authorities demanding assurances that measures are in place to prevent further contamination of frozen berries.
Eleven people across Australia have so far been infected with hepatitis A after eating frozen berries sourced from China.
Poor hygiene among workers and contaminated water supplies have been thought to be behind the contamination.
In a statement, the Department of Agriculture said it was engaging Chinese government authorities through Australian embassy staff in Beijing, seeking assurances about the safety of further shipments of frozen berries.
The latest confirmed case was announced by WA Health’s epidemiologist Dr Gary Dowse on Wednesday morning.
“We now have a person in WA who has hepatitis A and clearly is linked to the consumption of these berries,” he said.
“We expected it would happen and it has happened, and it’s quite conceivable that we’ll get more cases.”
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said country-of-origin labelling and consuming locally produced food were the most effective ways to ensure food safety.
Mr Joyce said it was important the public were able to make informed decisions regarding their purchases.
“If you want … better control of faecal contamination, … if you want to make sure it’s a clean, green product with the most stringent protections on it, then look for the country of origin and make sure you buy Australian,” he said
The AMA welcomes …[the] Close the Gap Campaign Report and the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap Report as important reminders of how much more needs to be done to genuinely close the life expectancy and health quality gaps experienced by Indigenous Australians.
AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler said that, despite best efforts across the political spectrum over many years, targets for life expectancy, reduced mortality rates, and other key performance indicators are not being met or are not on track.
A/Prof Owler said that health, especially access to primary health care, is key to addressing Indigenous disadvantage.
“Community controlled health organisations and Aboriginal Medical Services need greater support to be able provide Indigenous Australians with access to the comprehensive primary care services that other Australians enjoy.
“These bodies also need greater support in ensuring Indigenous Australians have a healthy start to life, with early intervention programs to ensure better health outcomes for children and teenagers.
A/Prof Owler said that the Government’s proposed Medicare changes – the unfair co-payment model, the cut to the Medicare rebate, and the freeze on Medicare patient rebates until 2018 – will hit community controlled health services and Aboriginal Medical Services hard, and place enormous pressure on efforts to close the gap.
The AMA is seeking talks with the Prime Minister to discuss health policy and health reform, including measures to close the gap and end Indigenous disadvantage.
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