Fresh concerns have been raised by the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) over threats to the provision of health services in Australia as part of a trade deal being negotiated in secret by the Federal Government.
According to a discussion paper leaked by Associated Whistle-Blowing Press, negotiators of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) are reportedly considering wide-ranging reforms to national public health systems, including the promotion of health insurance for offshore medical procedures and increased privatisation of health services.
Assistant General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Judith Kiejda, said the contents of the latest leak were alarming and reinforced the need for the Federal Government to be transparent about exactly what was being negotiated in the TISA.
“This is another example of our Federal Government’s intention to Americanise our health care system, through the increased privatisation of services,” Ms Kiejda said.
“We are extremely worried that under the TISA, privatisation of health services would be irreversible, even if the privatisation failed the public good. The only winners such a scenario would be the shareholders of large health corporations and insurance companies – not patients.
“The leaked discussion paper indicates that health dollars could potentially be taken out of Australia and redirected overseas, as patients travel abroad for medical procedures.
“This raises serious questions over what the Federal Government has been communicating to the Australian public – Treasurer Joe Hockey claims health expenditure is ‘unsustainable’, meanwhile Trade Minister Andrew Robb is engaged in secret negotiations which could result in health dollars being sent offshore.
“It again smacks of health policy on the run by the Federal Government,” said Ms Kiejda.
Australia is participating in the TISA negotiations along with the United States, the European Union and a further 20 parties.
Global trade union federation, Public Services International, highlighted that the TISA proposal assumed health services were like a commodity that could be handled by the market and also ignored the role of public health.
“It is scandalous that proposals to dismantle the public health system are being discussed behind closed doors and the public must rely on leaks to find out what their governments are discussing on their behalf,” said PSI General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli.
“Health is a human right and is not for sale or for trade. The health system exists to keep our families safe and healthy, not to ensure the profits of large corporations.”
The NSWNMA called on the Prime Minister and Minister Robb to insist the exclusion of health care services and medicines from the TISA and any other free trade agreement.
For more information about the leaked discussion paper visit: http://www.world-psi.org/issue/asia-pacific
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