As Peter Dutton welcomes Queensland Health upheavals, an authority on remote area health warns about the long-term consequences
Those with a concern for rural and remote health, for primary healthcare and public health, and for workforce sustainability have reason to worry about the long-term impact of Queensland Health upheavals.
In the article below, Professor Sabina Knight, director of the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health of James Cook University, explains why she holds this view.
Following her piece is a statement from the Opposition Health and Ageing spokesman Peter Dutton congratulating the Queensland Government, as well as links to further reading.
Many harms likely to flow from Queensland cuts
Sabina Knight writes:
The Qld Health budget and associated broad staffing cuts may achieve short term gain but are unlikely to achieve long term gain.
The link to a cohesive strategy to build a more robust, sustainable health system and better health outcomes is far from clear.
Across-the-board cuts ignore regions of vulnerable or high to very high health need and particular regional public health challenges, such as infectious disease and higher rates of chronic disease. These necessitate surveillance and are amenable to public health interventions; while gains have been made, these are far from complete.
The redefinition of core primary healthcare services to exclude health promotion and public health is worrying.
The success of regionalisation and local control depends on effective central agency functions including quality technical support and leadership on prevention, public health, workforce, safety and quality.
A likely unintended consequence is the disappearance of health careers as an attractive option in a competitive labour market.
Generations of health professionals have not ever known job insecurity. In fact, an inordinate amount has been invested in education and training, and in attracting and retaining them. There is a significant risk this experience will generate a considerable backlash.
Given the five to ten year lead-time to produce a range of health professionals, the current policy appears short sighted, particularly when presented as a fiscal strategy unrelated to building a more sustainable system.
There are a plethora of reports on health reform that could have informed more coherent, sustainable approaches to reform.
The States previously rejected the offer to hand over primary health care funding and policy to the Commonwealth – perhaps this is behind the current thinking? Certainly it is timely that the issue be revisited within the context of the COAG agenda.
• Professor Sabina Knight is director of the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health, James Cook University
Statement from Peter Dutton
Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, Federal Member for Dickson
Federal Shadow Health Minister, Peter Dutton, today congratulated the Queensland Health Minister, on reviving Queensland Health and putting the system back on track with an $800m investment and a strategy of getting more money to front line services.
“Queensland Health was a basket case under Labor and it was in a death spiral. Lawrence Springborg is getting Queensland Health back on its feet and in time Mums and Dads in emergency departments and pensioners on waiting lists will be thanking the Newman Government for spending more on patients,” Mr Dutton said.
Mr Dutton also questioned why Tanya Plibersek had only recently become interested in Queensland Health.
“Where were Tanya Plibersek and the unions when Labor was ripping the guts out of Queensland health workers and their families during the worlds longest pay debacle? Tanya Plibersek can cry all the crocodile tears she likes, but in adding thousands of extra staff in the bureaucracy, the Minister has taken money away from patient services,” Mr Dutton said.
Mr Dutton was not surprised that Tanya Plibersek is attached to Labor’s Queensland legacy which is strikingly similar to Federal Labor’s record.
“Gillard Labor has followed Bligh Labor in bloating the bureaucracy, which results in doctors and nurses being starved of money and patients missing out on essential services. Labor are great at building bureaucracies and hopeless at delivering services and health outcomes for patients,” Mr Dutton said.
Minister Springborg and the Newman Government have done what Liberal-National Governments do – they clean up Labor messes. Labor taxes and spends and wastes money.
Conservative Governments pay back their debt and get services back on track.
“There’s only so much money in the pie. You can take Labor’s path and spend taxpayers money on shiny towers housing public servants or you can take the Liberal way and spend it on helping doctors and nurses deliver for patients,” Mr Dutton said.
• Meanwhile the Courier Mail reports that Dr Wendell Rosevear has resigned in protest from the State’s new ministerial advisory committee on HIV/AIDS. In his resignation letter, Dr Rosevear said the Government had delivered a “king hit” to the gay community by stripping peak body Queensland Association for Healthy Communities of funding with little consultation, then effectively silencing other groups under new funding rules. The rules forbid non-profits from agitating for state or federal law changes if their group receives half or more of its funding from Queensland Health and other state agencies.
Previous Croakey coverage of the Qld Health Budget
• Queensland Government’s health cuts are lazy, harmful, and short-sighted, to mention just some of the adjectives
Philip Darbyshire, Daryl Sadgrove
• Qld Health may be far from perfect but the changes are also problematic
Dr Mark Bahnisch
• Various perspectives on the cuts, and their implications – especially for public and health promotion
Mike Daube, Jack Bulman, Vern Hughes, Peter Davoren, Tim Senior, Jane Barry and others