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Health reform: where have we been, and where are we headed?

Carol Bennett, Chief Executive of the Consumers Health Forum, writes:

If not much happened in health reform in 2010 – as some observers claim – we at the Consumers Health Forum must have been putting a lot of effort into nothing.

A quick check of the records shows that we put forward submissions and subsequently gave evidence to seven Senate Committees of Enquiry.

That is on top of more than 20 public consultations CHF conducted across a range of health subjects including pathology, quality use of medicines, the health reform package and the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS).

Drawing breath after a very busy year, it is worth reflecting on what has been achieved, rather than just the seemingly endless talking and submissions.

CHF has welcomed the deal between the Government and Medicines Australia that will bring savings of $1.9 billion over four years, drive down the prices of some medicines and speed up the approval process for others.

We have given a qualified welcome to the 5th Community Pharmacy Agreement, but we will keep a close eye on the Patient Service Charter part of agreement to ensure that it delivers what is promised.  We will continue to argue that these multi-billion dollar agreements need to be publicly measurable and accountable and should be open to all stakeholders, particularly the consumer.

Consistent with our strong advocacy of making the health system more flexible and accessible, we certainly welcomed the establishment of Primary Health Care Organisations (PHCOs) in the expectation that they will take pressure off our over-stretched hospital system.

We strongly supported the introduction of Universal Health Identifiers (UHI’s) as a necessary step towards a long-overdue and necessary electronic health system and personally controlled electronic health records in 2012.

And we most certainly welcome the action by the government to genuinely engage with health consumers in the development and implementation of health reforms. Without this – and indeed more of it – the Government’s health reform package will not achieve its stated aim of a better health system for all Australians.

In this coming year, 2011, consumers get the opportunity to engage with the reform process though the CHF’s four stage project, Our Health, Our Community which will provide the training and support that has been lacking in consumer engagement to date.

By the end of the year, we will have a much clear view of whether the reform is starting to deliver its anticipated promise.

• This article was first published in today’s Crikey bulletin

Comments 2

  1. ron batagol says:

    The reflection of “work-in-progress” and aspirational aims in public and community health for 2011 by Carol Bennett are laudable. Unfortunately, though, programme delivery is hardly the strong suit of this Federal Government- and that’s not a partisan political statement because the Opposition certainly isn’t flush by any means with alternative options in most of the public & community health areas!!! & btw I have a feeling that NBN rollout is heading the same way – hope I’m wrong!!!. ( and it seems it is unpatriotic to ask questions about it anyway!!). Watching Minister Combet on ABC breakfast this morning, at least he is admitting the difficulty and impacticality of a Federal Govt. trying to run programmes rather than just devise and implement policy settings- insulation, Green Loans etc. examples mentioned in passing!!! Most of us with a professional interest in public health & community are keen as Carol Bennett to see a lot of these initiatives succeed, but, juding by their implementation record to date, are sceptical of this Govt. being able to efficiently oversee successful rollout of many of thee initiatives.

    With specific refernce to eHealth, I note that Professor Enrico Coiera, Director of the Centre for Health Informatics at the University of NSW, makes the scathing attack in the MJA (online 29 Nov), stating , as reported, that “the negative response to the UK’s summary care record (SCR) should make Australia “pause and think again” before rolling out a similar system.”
    Also “The government’s PCEHR systems are due to be rolled out by July 2012 but the national record system in England has only been used in 4% of GP consultations in England and has generated additional workload for doctors!”

    He says that “little research has been done in Australia to show whether the SCR is beneficial and there is no clarity around its purpose, how it will impact on clinical care and how it will be used.”

    I also worry that patients may be able to “cherry pick” which medical or treatment items are included in their e summary. For instance, if metronidazole was used to treat a sexually transmitted disease, a patient may wish to exclude this from their summary. But this drug potentiates the anticoagulant effect of warfarin, so if they were on warfarin and were beiong managed for an acute bleeding episode, it is certainly very relevant to know of the metronidazole treatment!!! That is just as one example, and there would be a myriad of others!

  2. galeg says:

    As long as people use the hospital and ambulance systems as substitute to their own suburban GPs, the over all health system can only continue to go backwards.
    The Fed Gov can reform anything they like, but, as found in the UK, no public health system can be both free and available to all, while at the same time giving comprehensive, timely medical attention.
    I have private health cover (have reduced all other expenditure to maintain cover) and know from experience, if I need hospitalisation for any reason, I will be admitted within a very short time, or have been sent to hospital in an emergency, I can be transfered to the private hospital section of a public hospital.

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#PreventObesity16
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#WearablesCEH
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2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
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#LivingOurWay
#OKtoAskAu
#OTCC2017
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#WCPH2017
Australian Palliative Care Conference
2018 conferences
#6rrhss
#ACEM18