Victorian voters may be swimming in health promises – but these offer little vision of a more integrated health system that better serves people with chronic illness, according to Dr Christine Walker, who heads the Chronic Illness Alliance.
This is the first in a Croakey mini-series examining health and the Victorian election.
Christine Walker writes:
Among more than 50 health promises made by the Coalition, Labor and the Greens, there are multiple promises for capital works, but not much in the way of better organising the health system to meet people’s needs.
Voters have been offered projects ranging from the Coalition’s pledge of $117 million for an emergency department at Monash Children’s Hospital, to Labor’s promise for a $200 million dedicated women’s and children’s hospital in the suburb of Sunshine and the Greens’ pledge for a $5 million mobile dental unit pilot for residential aged care facilities.
But little mention is made by the parties of how the state’s health system could be better connected. There is no detail from any of the parties on how the primary and tertiary care system might be integrated.
So once again voters could be excused for seeing the barrage of promises as signs of an unfocused health system.
For instance, not a lot is being offered those who have the greatest need of an integrated health system, namely those with long-term serious life-threatening illnesses, to ensure they retain optimal health.
The issue of caring for people with chronic illnesses gets largely overlooked with the exception of the Coalition’s offer of some services to address obesity and diabetes. The problem is that many people have conditions other than these.
There is no mention of improving the long-underfunded Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme, VPTAS, so that people living in remote locations of Victoria can access specialist medical services.
People in need of this assistance are often those with long-term life-threatening illnesses.
The Greens, however, offer a broader primary and secondary prevention program.
Mental health figures well in all promises across Greens, Labor and Coalition. Only the Greens recognise the need for more funding for dental services.
Outside the metro area, Maryborough, Castlemaine, Goulburn Valley Health Services are some of the regions to be promised more.
But there is no explanation of the costings to maintain services and no mention of how the current services and new infrastructures will be supported and maintained in the long term.
If services are provided, it’s not good enough to maintain them by slugging those who need them. Car parking fees are not the answer.
• Dr Christine Walker heads the Chronic Illness Alliance