Daniel Andrews, Dominic Perrottet team up in bid to overhaul Medicare, boost hospital funding
“We need to get emergency departments back to doing what they do best, which is looking after patients who have an emergency.
“And it also means providing greater opportunities for GPs to provide bulk billing to see patients and ensure the best healthcare for people across the country.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese heads to the national cabinet meeting with demands from all states and territories for more spending on hospitals and Medicare after federal health minister Mark Butler admitted the system was under the most pressure in four decades.
The government will release within days the findings of its Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, which will guide how it will spend $750 million promised at the election last May, and will also release a report on fraud in the system after revelations by this masthead on rorts costing billions of dollars.
The reform plan calls for a boost to Medicare rebates, building more family doctor clinics and a controversial move to allow pharmacies to offer primary care that is limited to doctors, such as prescribing some drugs.
In a blunt response to doctors opposing the changes, Perrottet dismissed the GP groups as wrong and said Friday’s meeting of the national cabinet must agree on a road map for reform before later decisions to boost funding for primary care and hospitals to give
Perrottet said he “absolutely” wanted a national agreement to replicate a NSW trial that gave pharmacies the power to prescribe medication for urinary tract infections, hormonal contraception and conditions such as skin ailments, as well as allowing them to administer vaccinations to serve.
“It relieves pressure on our doctors and, in turn, it relieves pressure on our emergency departments because we need to have a system where emergency departments are for emergencies,” he said.
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said people in his state were waiting 55 per cent longer to see a doctor than they were three years ago. “Think about what that means in terms of impact on EDs,” he said. “If we’re being honest, the hospital system is on the precipice of an almost permanent state of crisis.”
“There are things that the states can do, but we really need dramatic action in the short and long term … We cannot fight the battle with one arm tied behind our back.”
Malinauskas said he wants to see the government’s Medicare report to guide future policy decisions. However, Butler did not commit to releasing it before the national cabinet meeting.
Andrews and Perrottet have both called for an increase in Medicare rebates to lift funding for primary care, but the NSW premier said he wanted a road map this Friday to ensure structural change before new funding flows into the system .
“Let’s lead with the new way of doing things and what should be the best possible health care, and then let’s have the discussion about funding,” Perrottet said. “If we lead with funding, we’re not going to have a discussion about the right policy.”
Perrottet and Andrews also agreed to build 25 “urgent care clinics” in each state to help patients who cannot find a family doctor, while supporting Albanese’s election promise last year to fund 50 similar care clinics.
The Australian Medical Association warned last November that Perrottet was “writing a prescription for the collapse of general practice” by allowing pharmacies to offer more primary care, fueling fierce lobbying against any proposal to move the NSW trial to a to accept national level, emphasized.
Asked if doctors were wrong to move against having pharmacists do more of the primary care, Perrottet said: “I believe they are, but change is always difficult, and there will always be different opinions and I respect that completely.”
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