CountryMinded does not offer a comprehensive health services policy, simply because the issues in access and delivery are so diverse that it is difficult to provide a coherent differentiated strategy in the context of the CountryMinded policy setting at this time.
However, CountryMinded can apply many common themes from other policy statements to the provision and funding of health services. With this is in mind we are providing a positioning statement on health in the knowledge that it is not a comprehensive policy.
CountryMinded is concerned that there is an inordinate level of bureaucracy in the health industry consuming gross amounts of money in administration and compromising front line service delivery.
The fact that the delivery of health services is a state jurisdiction and the Commonwealth has a health department of over 3600 bureaucrats (and growing) providing nil front line services is a damning indictment in itself. We understand the role of the federal health department in the administration of Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, but seriously question the resources consumed in the execution of those roles.
Nationally there are approximately 3.4 hospital beds per health administrator. CountryMinded maintains a common and consistent theme that there is no reason to accept that the public sector is unable to deliver services as efficiently as the private sector. Clearly, the performance matrices for public health services are inadequate and failing to deliver appropriate levels of efficiency to ensure optimum deployment of resources to front line medical care.
Health is not just about hospitals and beds, but there is a propensity to over resource administration and under resource delivery across the board. Furthermore, there is a propensity to impose tedious compliance systems that are undermining the provision of key services and products on public and private sector providers, without improving the quality or quantity of services.
CountryMinded is more interested in addressing the failures in the current system than suggesting structural reform at this stage. Similarly, we would seek to ensure that the current funding levels are being utilised efficiently and to best effect in front line service provision before blindly allocating more funds.
Ancillary services including ambulance and paramedic services, palliative care, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, dentistry, nutrition and mental health, to mention a few, are all integrated and included in the broader scope of the health industry generally.
Health outcomes for the nation are not only measured in our ability to diagnose and treat patients. There must be a clear focus on rates of illness and morbidity in the community and how to prevent or reduce them to reduce the associated cost of treatment and lost productivity to the economy generally. There must be a much greater emphasis on prevention and early intervention to bring down treatment costs and improve quality of life outcomes.
Australia has a highly centralised population and it is natural that the provision of specialty health services will concentrate where the population density is highest. However, the investment in health services in rural and regional communities has far reaching social impacts on communities who are under resourced.
CountryMinded is committed to the concept that rural and regional people and communities are no less deserving of access to high quality health services than other Australians. However, highest quality services can’t be replicated in every regional centre. As a result, there needs to be a strong focus on systems and infrastructure that extend the range and duplication of specialist services.
CountryMinded is also concerned about the significant underutilisation of regional health care facilities. Issues in liability and constraints on competent lay people, particularly in remote areas, must be addressed to be able to address acute care situations in regional and remote centres.
High speed telecommunication infrastructure/capacity must be a priority to enhance and duplicate standards of health care in treatment and diagnostics universally.
Retention and re-entry strategies for primary carers must be enhanced. Recognition of prior learning must be facilitated particularly for encouraging rural and regional based professionals back into the workforce. There are too many bureaucratic barriers to re-entry.
Ambulance services, including air transport services, must be enhanced for regional centres and stably funded. The justifications and basis for the allocation of resources here must reflect the real need and strategic importance of keeping skilled people and their families in the regions.
CountryMinded is keen to see specific and incentivised training for Rural General Practice which presents a higher degree of complexity and necessarily broader level of competence.
CountryMinded will support policies that:
- Attack the over administration of health services, particularly in the hospital system.
- Provide specialist training for rural GPs
- Prioritise and enhance digital connectivity for health services
- Increase emphasis on preventative strategies
- Increase health investment in regional Australia based on strategic importance of retaining skilled people in the regions rather than just the population
- Provide better support to regional people forced to travel for health services