The Health News – 20 February 2014

Overview

  • Federal health minister Peter Dutton has raised the possibility of a Medicare overhaul, and suggested that Australians who can afford to pay more for public healthcare should be doing so.
  • In SA, health minister Jack Snelling says the proposed Medicare copayment would severely increase waiting times in public hospitals.
  • In QLD, the Mater Hospital will be offered the land beneath the QLD Children’s Hospital for one dollar due to a secretive deal made by the former Bligh government.
  • QLD health minister Lawrence Springborg has spoken of introducing legislation to boost immunisation figures.

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Medicare plans: Health Minister Peter Dutton flags overhaul, calls for discussion on GP co-payments – no author listed
Federal health minister Peter Dutton has raised the possibility of a Medicare overhaul, and suggested that Australians who can afford to pay more for public healthcare should be doing so.
He called the current system ‘unsustainable’ and he wants to “strengthen and modernise Medicare”.
Minister Dutton said “Commonwealth and state governments contribute 92 cents in the dollar for those treated in the public system. Therefore, one important job of the Abbott Government is to grow the opportunity for those Australians who can afford to do so to contribute to their own healthcare costs. If they have a means to contribute to their own healthcare, we should be embarking on a discussion about how that payment model will work. I want to make sure that, for argument’s sake, we have a discussion about you or me on reasonable incomes [and] whether we should expect to pay nothing when we go to a doctor.” There has been recent discussion around the possibility of patients being charged $6 for each general practitioner appointment. A commission of audit launched by the Prime Minister received submissions which recommended the GP co-payment scheme. In the proposed scheme, concession holders and pensioners would be exempt, and families awarded up to 12 bulk-billed appointments per year. The AMA disapproves of the scheme, and have said it would discourage sick people from visiting doctors. But key Medicare executive Stephen Duckett does not believe the co-payment would make the system any more sustainable. He said “The co-payment is a pimple on a pumpkin, It doesn’t raise much money. It may not raise any money if people go to a hospital emergency department instead.”

SA Health Minister Jack Snelling warns Coalition’s proposed Medicare changes would blow out state health budget – no author listed
In SA, health minister Jack Snelling says the proposed Medicare copayment would severely increase waiting times in public hospitals. The minister said “We estimate that over 300,000 extra people would be going to our emergency departments even with a relatively small reduction in the number of people going to GPs and of course that would blow out waiting times to well over an hour and cost our state budget $80 million every year.” State Liberals are not supporting the proposition. Liberal health spokesperson Rob Lucas said the party’s federal colleagues would need to convince them of genuine benefits of the scheme. He said “Our position we start from is we remain to be convinced, so what we’ve said all along is that we’re not going to support any change in policy in this particular area unless we can see that it’s in the best interests of South Australia as a state and also health consumers in SA.”

Revealed: secret Bligh deal with Mater on Qld Children’s Hospital – by Matt Wordsworth
In QLD, the Mater Hospital will be offered the land beneath the QLD Children’s Hospital for one dollar due to a secretive deal made by the former Bligh government. The Mater signed a confidential memorandum of understanding in December 2008, and would gain 16 hectares of land from the deal. The deal stipulated that Qld Health would pay Mater over $48 million to demolish its commercial car park and a unit which were within the Children’s Hospital precinct. This means Qld Health would provide 75% of land for the development, with Mater contributing the remainder. But the deal mandates that 60 years after the children’s hospitals’ opening, Mater are to be offered to buy all Qld Health-owned land on the site for $1. The deal also gives Mater management rights to the underground carpark and 58 beds in the children’s hospital. The memorandum contained an acknowledgement that “Mater will receive the potential to obtain a significant income from the licences”.

New laws considered in push to boost Qld immunisation rates – by Melissa Howells and Matt Eaton
QLD health minister Lawrence Spinrgborg has spoken of introducing legislation to boost immunisation figures. The state government last week opposed a bill to ban unvaccinated children from childcare centres. The health minister has since said the government were unsure if that measure would be effective at combating communicable diseases. He said “We do not rule out legislative change, But if we look at those places that have got legislative change, which actually drives people supposedly to immunise, the rates are no higher. It’s a very complex issue making sure that we actually deal with what we’ve got to deal with.” The National Health Performance Authority’[s report on immunisations for 2011 to 2012 found the Sunshine Coast region was below the national vaccination average for most children aged 1 to 5.