- Disability advocates are concerned people with disabilities will not be adequately represented under changes to the sector proposed by the Federal Government.
- Allegations of fraud and misuse of public money by private doctors will not be investigated by Queensland’s corruption watchdog.
- AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler has called on the Federal Government to immediately drop plans to slash $5 from the Medicare rebate following the release of figures showing claims that health spending is growing unsustainably are baseless.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 24th September 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.
Disability advocates are concerned people with disabilities will not be adequately represented under changes to the sector proposed by the Federal Government.
Under a Department of Social Services overhaul, peak bodies that represent people with disabilities have been told to re-apply for their Commonwealth funding.
The current amount of funding is modest in government terms – just $2.5 million each year for all peak bodies combined.
In the coming months it is expected the number of funded peak bodies will be reduced from the current 13 to seven, or fewer, with each one expected to receive around $300,000.
Mark Pattison, the executive director of Inclusion Australia, formerly known as the National Council on Intellectual Disability, said he is worried that under the changes, some disability peak voices will be lost from the national debate.
Social Services Assistant Minister Senator Mitch Fifield said the changes to grant funding are not about engaging fewer peak bodies.
“This is about enabling the disability sector to better organise itself,” he said.
To guarantee all voices in the disability sector will be funded, the Government has encouraged peak organisations to join together in “alliances” to ensure they have some access to Commonwealth funds.
It said representation will be provided across key areas, including women with disabilities, children and young people with disabilities, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities.
Most observers agree the Commonwealth peak disability funding system as it works now has significant flaws.
Thirteen disability peak bodies receive funding. Those living with brain injuries are represented; so are the blind.
Two groups representing Australians who are deaf are funded. But one of the fastest growing disability groups in the country, autism, is not.
Groups expect the funding decision to be made in the next few months.
Allegations of fraud and misuse of public money by private doctors will not be investigated by Queensland’s corruption watchdog.
Earlier this year, Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the evidence gathered by Queensland auditor-general Andrew Greaves showed systemic failings and double-dipping by 12 doctors in the state’s public hospitals.
Today the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) announced that while the auditor’s concern was justified there was insufficient evidence of official misconduct to warrant an investigation.
In a report handed to the CCC in January, Mr Greaves alleged that senior medical officers (SMOs) without right of private practice contracts were treating and billing their private patients in public hospitals.
This meant they were being paid by the hospital and earning private sector income at the same time.
Some were allegedly paid overtime while on holidays, others were accused of treating private patients in a public hospital and retained all the income, contrary to their contracts.
The CCC assessment identified information about two senior medical officers it said warranted further examination.
“The CCC determined that these matters could be most appropriately dealt with by the relevant Hospital and Health Service,” it said in a statement.
The allegations prompted the State Government to push ahead with controversial contract arrangements for SMOs, which prompted threats from many doctors across Queensland that they would resign from public hospitals.
AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler has called on the Federal Government to immediately drop plans to slash $5 from the Medicare rebate following the release of figures showing claims that health spending is growing unsustainably are baseless.
“The Abbott Government has justified its extreme health Budget measures on the basis that health spending is out of control. Clearly it is not,” A/Prof Owler said.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released analysis showing total national spending on health grew by a record low 1.5 per cent in real terms in 2012-13, underpinned by a big 2.4 per cent fall in Federal Government funding. Health’s share of the Commonwealth Budget has fallen in the last seven years from more than 18 per cent to 16.1 per cent.
“These numbers clearly demonstrate that there are simply no grounds for taking even more money out of health,” A/Prof Owler said. The figures back the strong stand taken by the AMA against the Government’s $7 co-payment proposal and its plans to slice $5 from already-inadequate Medicare rebates for GP, pathology and diagnostic imaging services, and to rip billions out of public hospital funding.
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