The Health News – 24 April 2014

Overview

  • Health Minister Peter Dutton has fuelled speculation the Federal Government is poised to introduce a new payment for GP visits by indicating high income earners should not expect to see a doctor for free.
  • The Tasmanian Treasurer has confirmed the financing of the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment is under review.
  • A class action against the Melbourne doctor who infected women with Hepatitis C will go to trial, because one woman will not agree to a group settlement.

Health News on HPR.

Medicare co-payment: Peter Dutton fuels speculation ahead of budget of $6 fees

Health Minister Peter Dutton has fuelled speculation the Federal Government is poised to introduce a new payment for GP visits by indicating high income earners should not expect to see a doctor for free.

There have been reports the Abbott Government will announce a $6 co-payment for bulk-billed GP appointments in the May 13 budget.

The measure is reported to be worth $725 million over four years.

Mr Dutton has refused to confirm the charge will be in the budget but told a press conference “there’s a lot of reform that needs to take place in health”.

When asked if he could reassure people on low incomes, the Minister said there would always be a “safety net” in place for people who could not afford to pay.

“We will take care of those that can’t take care of themselves,” he said.

“But at the same time people on incomes like mine, or a reporter on $300,000 or $400,000 a year – should we expect to go to the doctor for free? That’s a reasonable question to ask.

“I want to make sure that we can strengthen Medicare, but we’re not going to do that by giving free services in the hundreds of millions each year in a country like ours.

“If we want to provide for people with no means into the future, then we’re going to have to have an honest conversation about how we build and strengthen our system.”

The Federal Opposition says it will fight the co-payment.

“A GP tax is the thin edge of the wedge,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

“We will see people on fixed incomes, self-funded retirees, people over 55, poorer people will be unfairly hit.”

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said there were concerns the measure would push people to go to hospital emergency departments instead.

“If you’re trying to reform the health system, this is not the way to go about it,” she said.

Government confirms finance for Royal Hobart Hospital revamp under review- By Stephen Smiley

The Tasmanian Treasurer has confirmed the financing of the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment is under review.
Healthcare workers and builders are worried the Government could ultimately scale down the $580 million state and federally-funded redevelopment.

Last week, the Government called an urgent halt to work on the project, citing major cost blowouts under Labor.
It is refusing to set a new start date, and will not say whether the full project will proceed.

The Government has received $290 million from the Commonwealth for the project, but is yet to sign a key building contract.
Treasuer Peter Gutwein says project’s finance being reviewed.
Mr Gutwein would not say whether that federal money would need to be handed back if the project was scaled down.

“In regards to the financing of that project and, again depending on where you want to go with this particular question, we are having a look at this project at the moment,” he said.

“When the advice is available to cabinet, cabinet will then consider the issues around this project and then the Government will provide a position.”

The Opposition has broken its silence on the delays and has defended its handling of the project.
Opposition health spokeswoman Rebecca White denies it was badly mismanaged.
She is accusing the Government of being secretive.

“We could deliver this project on time and on budget,” she said.

“We were hoping to see preliminary works commence this week, they won’t be happening now under the Liberal Government.

“Certainly it’s a very complex build and we respect that they’ll need time to get their heads around this particular project, but we’re calling on them to be more transparent around their intentions for this hospital project.”

Ms White says Labor made changes to the project after an Auditor-General’s report.

“We had the Auditor-General hand down a report early this year, and from that some changes were made to the governance and arrangements from within the project itself, and work was due to start this week.”

“So I’m confident that had the Labor Government still been in power, we would have seen work begin on the new redevelopment of the Hobart hospital this week.”

Hepatitis C class action settlement derailed by court action – no author listed
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-23/hepatitis-c-class-action-settlement-derailed-by-court-action/5406236

A class action against the Melbourne doctor who infected women with Hepatitis C will go to trial, because one woman will not agree to a group settlement.

Anaesthetist James Latham Peters was jailed for 14 years after pleading guilty to negligently causing serious injury for injecting women with needles he had used on himself.

The Croydon Hospital, where Peters worked, had only agreed to settle the case if it meant the end to all legal action.

A lawyer for the victims, Julie Clayton, says today’s decision means the matter will have to go to trial. It’s been an extremely traumatic four years for them and they were all really looking forward to this being resolved. It will be very disappointing for them. We’re ready to go to trial and if that’s what we have to do to get justice for these women then we will do so.”