The buck passing on public hospital funding is well and truly back. The Tasmanian government last week announced it would cut more than $60 million from its elective surgery budget over the next three years. That means, according to federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon, that the state risks missing out on Commonwealth funding for not meeting national elective surgery benchmarks. In other words, a bad situation in a state with severe financial problems looks like leading to ever lengthening queues for elective surgery as patients suffer while state and federal governments squabble.
So much for the much touted ending of the blame game over public hospitals that Kevin Rudd promised would result in a federal takeover if the states did not do the right thing. Roxon has ruled out that possibility. So where does that leave these words from the 2010 policy speech of Rudd’s successor as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard?
That’s why we will continue to invest in and reform health. We will train 1300 new GPs to overcome the legacy of Mr Abbott’s cuts. We will train 3000 more new nurses. We will train the health professionals we need for the future. We have increased the amount of money invested in health by 50 per cent and now we will reform for the future. More local control, more of a local say for doctors, nurses and the local community. The federal government stepping up to what it should do: taking the dominant share of funding for our health system. Making sure that we’re reducing waiting times in emergency departments from eight hours to four hours. Making sure that we are getting elective surgery performed on time in 95 per cent of cases. These are profound health reforms that we want to deliver for the future. Australians need them. They need them now. And we need them to have a health care system that can meet our needs as we age, as there are more older Australians seeking care in five, 10, 15 years’ time.
To my mind it’s a straight out broken promise.