Abbott’s regressive health plan

cover Lamp April 2010

Tony Abbotts proposed plan for hospitals is a backward step and would not deliver the care needed by today’s communities.

A Coalition Government led by Tony Abbott would abolish the Area Health Services in NSW and Queensland and establish boards at every major hospital. Comprising local community and business representatives, doctors and nurses, the local board would have control over its hospital’s funding and decisions about the delivery of services.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the Opposition leader’s proposed plans for hospitals are a return to the system we had 20 years ago, and they would not deliver for current or future health care needs.

‘We need a national health plan, not a system that creates small, local and siloed hospitals that operate in isolation from each other.

‘Mr Abbott’s inefficient and expensive health plan will lead to a duplication of services, micromanagement and unworkable healthcare outcomes.

‘It doesn’t provide for the myriad non-hospital health services and fails to recognise that most health care happens outside hospitals. Hospitals are part of a network of services, and the best outcomes occur when services work together,’ said Brett.

‘In the past such boards focused unrealistically on providing the full range of services for their local community. The reality is there is neither the staff nor funding to do this.

‘Such boards also have a natural tendency to interfere in the day-to-day management of hospitals and community health,’ said Brett.

Tim Woodruff, President of the Doctors Reform Society, agrees: ‘The system needs more co-ordination, not to be divided up along lines suggested by Mr Abbott. Our feelings are this is a move back to the 1950s.’

Mr Abbott had his chance to reform the health system when he was Minister for Health under the Howard Government. Instead, the Howard Government slashed funding, starving the public health system of millions of dollars of Commonwealth funding.

‘As Health Minister, he demonstrated no respect and little understanding of the nursing profession, and now his proposed health plan completely ignores the vital and important role of nurses in the Australian health system,’ said Brett.

Abbott claims he wants to promote the voice of communities in health care but he attacked the idea of citizens juries on The 7.30 Report in 2006: ‘They’re no substitute for political decision making. In the end, politicians and policy makers can’t subcontract out the decision-making process,’ he said at the time.

Abbott’s IR policy spells disaster for workers

Tony Abbott’s stance on industrial relations is of as much concern as his health policy.

Abbott’s talk of cutting penalty rates would severely impact hospital nurses working weekend and late-night shifts. Some nurses could lose up to $400 a week if the Opposition implements this strategy.

‘The Coalition appear to be holding a candle for WorkChoices and would, if they had the opportunity, once again strip workers of their rights,’ said ANF Federal Secretary Ged Kearney. ‘If penalty rates were cut, you would have nurses who work tough weekend shifts in Emergency Departments or intensive care losing hundreds of dollars from their pay.

‘Nurses could lose up to $36 a shift on weekdays and up to $180 per shift on weekends,’ Ged said. ‘The fact the Opposition are publicly discussing cutting penalty rates should put fear into the hearts of all workers. Such unfair policy shows the Opposition remains out of touch with workers.’

And it seems the public agrees. A national opinion poll carried out on behalf of the ACTU in February showed that a majority of Australians (53%) believe a Liberal Government led by Tony Abbott will bring back WorkChoices, even if it was under a different name.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the results revealed people had deep suspicions about Abbott’s support for hardline industrial relations policies and WorkChoices.

‘Under WorkChoices, AWA individual contracts were used by employers to cut the take home pay and job conditions of thousands of Australians. Also, employers had the power to dictate working hours and this put working families under extra pressure,’ Ms Burrow said.