The next Federal Government must adopt a health-in-all-policies approach, a fairer distribution of healthcare funding and resources, and a greater focus on early childhood.
So says the election policy platform from the Australian Medicare Local Alliance, which also calls for more flexible funding and streamlined reporting for Medicare Locals (available in full detail here).
The next Government must also re-introduce a chronic disease dental scheme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, writes AML Alliance CEO, Claire Austin.
Next government must free primary health care from red tape and enable fairer, more flexible systems
Claire Austin writes:
This election year, it has been reported that the Coalition considers primary health care a priority. The ALP has significantly stepped up the primary health care in this country following a massive change management reform that has produced 61 Medicare Locals.
It remains to be seen how the chosen government manages the future of primary health care after September 7. But we do know one thing – the system is established, it’s working and it should remain.
AML Alliance, the peak body for Medicare Locals, has 15 policy platforms for the sector, covering key areas such as the social determinants of health, workforce and equity of access through to rural and remote health, Closing the Gap, and managing chronic and complex care.
There is a lot more to be done in this sector, and any future government will be confronted with an organised sector that is on the pulse of what communities want and need when it comes to frontline health services.
Health, through Medicare Locals, is not being seen through the silo of health alone anymore, as these change agents are starting to break down the silos between the health and social care sectors.
However, for this to be truly realised, the next government has to be prepared to tackle the funding restraints, the burden of red tape and the flexibility required for Medicare Locals to match current and future needs.
For those who seem sceptical about this transition, a perusal of our policies will settle any questions; for those who have been crying out for this integration, the solution has been created, we just need the solid commitment from a future government to pursue the vision for primary health care in this country that will significantly recalibrate the service delivery more towards primary health care and take the pressure of the hospital sector.
Here’s a snapshot of what the AML Alliance is seeking in this election year:
Comprehensive primary health care
- A ‘health in all policies’ approach that addresses the impact of the social determinants of health on people’s wellbeing.
- Patient-centred primary health care homes where patients are linked back to their GP / primary health care practitioner, with linkages to multidisciplinary teams, specialists and other health and social services as required.
- Financing mechanisms and other policy changes that reward quality and enable delivery of effective, affordable multidisciplinary primary health care.
- Fully flexible funds for Medicare Locals so that services can be truly tailored to local needs.
- Streamlined reporting requirements for Medicare Locals that focus on health outcomes and value for money.
Closing the Gap
- The re-introduction of a chronic disease dental scheme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Continuation of the CTG pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS) co-payment to improve access to medication and management of chronic disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Ongoing commitment to reconciliation through the Medicare Local Reconciliation Action Plans.
- A role for the commercial sector in primary health care and public service provision.
- A policy environment where PPPs are encouraged and supported through appropriate incentives and flexibility.
- Flexible allocation of funding to support workforce team based care and new innovative, models of care.
- Ensuring that health workforce program criteria foster timely recruitment and distribution of health professionals.
- Generalist rural training pathways that attract and support students and health professionals to rural and remote areas.
- Medicare Locals working in partnership with LHNs, rural workforce agencies, training organisations and other key stakeholders to improve the supply, distribution, recruitment, retention and skills development of the health care workforce.
Social determinants of health
- The Senate Committee’s Report on Australia’s Domestic Response to the World Health Organisation’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health Report “Closing the gap within a generation” and calls on the next Government to adopt the recommendations.
- The next Government taking a Health in All Policies approach to public policy development, including through the adoption of equity and health impact assessment tools.
- Health policy that recognises the importance of the social determinants and places them as a national health priority.
Equity of access
- A more equitable distribution of funding and resources based on need.
- Medicare rebates for telehealth consultations to increase access to primary care services for Australians who otherwise have difficulty accessing them.
Coordination of health care
- An ongoing role for Medicare Locals in partnership with LHNs and other health sectors in developing and implementing appropriate hospital avoidance programs, robust referral pathways and transfer of care programs such as the HealthPathways program, or similar collaborative frameworks for care.
Maternal and child health
- The next Government must develop a national vision for early childhood development that advocates for whole of Government investment in the early years and that recognises that the greatest opportunity to promote health, prevent illness, and enact early intervention is during childhood.
- The inclusion of early childhood needs in Medicare Local population health planning, supported by policy and funding models that enable Medicare Locals to facilitate greater coordination and integration across relevant sectors and services for young children.
- Continued growth in funding for the ATAPS program and ongoing support for the role of Medicare Locals in improving access to more vulnerable population groups.
- Ongoing support for Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas (MHSRRA) to provide greater flexibility, especially in rural and remote areas where workforce capacity and access to services are an issue.
- Appropriate funding at the provider level that reflects the time and complexity that is required to provide ongoing dementia, palliative and aged care services in the community.
- Continued funding to increase access to:
– residential aged care homes, in particular in regional, rural and remote areas;
– address workforce pressures in aged care, including fair and competitive wages;
– coordinate aged care services; and
– information on health and aged care needs of older Australians to services in the community.
• Claire Austin is CEO of the AML Alliance