Rudd promises to end health blame game


Labor leader Kevin Rudd has promised an extra $2 billion for health and put forward a plan to end the blame game between the federal and state governments.

Kevin Rudd has announced a new health policy with plenty of carrots in the form of extra funding and incentives to state governments to reform the health system.

He has also threatened to wield the stick – the federal takeover of public hospitals – if the states fail to reach agreed targets in the improvement of hospital services.

Essentially, Labor’s plan promises to nationally resource a new model of integrated primary care, which will promote wellness and better care in the community. Labor believes this will reduce the demand for hospital services.

The new policy also promises more transition beds to help discharge from acute care beds older patients who no longer need them.

These initiatives, plus the extra two billion dollars, will be built into the next Australian Health Care Agreement, which traditionally has only dealt with hospital services.

These sweeping changes will be driven by a new National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, strengthened by input from clinicians, including nurses and consumers, that will report to the government.

Where will the extra $2 billion go?

Rudd says the extra $2 billion will be invested in four key initiatives:

  • New or enhanced primary care services, stronger preventative health care and better chronic disease management in order to reduce preventable hospitalisations and non-urgent accident and emergency presentations;
  • A reduction in waiting times for essential hospital services such as elective surgery;
  • Improved facilities for transition care in order to reduce hospital stays for older patients; and
  • Reducing non-urgent accident and emergency presentations by increasing access to medical and specialist services in the community.
  • Labor says its reform will occur in three stages:
  • A Rudd government would invest $2 billion in a National Health and Hospitals Reform Plan;
  • Within 100 days of the election, a federal Labor government will help establish a National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission to develop a long-term health reform plan for the nation;
  • If the states and territories have not begun implementing a national reform plan by the middle of 2009, a Rudd government would seek a mandate to assume funding responsibility for the nation’s public hospitals.

Rudd’s plan for health reform

  • A $2 billion National Health and Hospitals Reform Plan.
  • 2,000 additional transition care places.
  • A National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission to develop a long-term health reform plan for the nation.
  • A commitment to seek an electoral mandate to take over public hospitals if insufficient progress is made on reforms within the next term of government.

What health experts have to say about Labor’s plan

  • ‘For 20 years, the missing but essential ingredient for health system reform has been political leadership. It’s exciting that it has arrived at last.’ Professor John Dwyer, foundation Chairman of the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance.
  • ‘An essential step in recognising the importance of preventative health care in Australia.’ Australian General Practice Network.
  • ‘Nurses across Australia will be excited about the prospect of improving our health system where they struggle each day to provide basic nursing care.’ Ged Kearney, Assistant Secretary, Australian Nursing Federation.
  • ‘We can only wonder why the current federal government has not put forward such a promising proposal to date.’ Doctors Reform Society.