The Guardian • Issue #2012

AMA President urges immediate action on healthcare crisis

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2012

Earlier this month, ahead of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s first national cabinet meeting, Dr Omar Khorshid, Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, stated in a media release that – together with our state governments – the federal government needed to “act immediately, starting with COVID-19 funding and a new hospital agreement.”

While noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed Australia in debt, Khorshid further stated that Australia “shouldn’t accept ambulance ramping, lengthening elective surgery lists and dangerous emergency department waiting times” and that these were “evidence of governments failing to invest in health.”

To fix our ailing healthcare system, Khorshid outlined “a checklist of health reform” which included – but was not limited to “extend[ing] the National Partnership Agreement on COVID-19 beyond September, preferably until 2025”; “draw[ing] up a new National Health Reform Agreement where states and territories equally share hospital funding 50-50 with the commonwealth and the 6.5 per cent cap on growth is scrapped.”; “address the critical workforce shortage in health and the ongoing impact of the pandemic on that workforce”; and “tackle chronic disease – the biggest burden on the health system, with earlier prevention intervention and management in the community.”

Indeed, Australia’s healthcare system needs much improving and it’s not just the experts saying it, the public is too.

Australia’s healthcare rating fell from 7.8 out of 10 in March last year to 7.2 in June this year the Australian Healthcare Index survey shows. The survey had almost 12,000 participants and was conducted in April.

Speaking on the findings, Healthengine chief executive Marcus Tan stated they revealed an “impending and significant” crisis in healthcare, further stating that: “The overall trend is heading in the wrong direction suggesting that the Australian healthcare system is under stress, likely leading to worse experiences and outcomes.”

Tan’s analysis is not incorrect. Participants stated three main concerns; the cost of private healthcare insurance, emergency department waiting room times, and access to mental health care. Additionally, almost one in four respondents stated that their mental health had declined in the past six months. Almost sixty per cent of people still seeking treatment had been waiting more than three months.

It remains to be seen what came out of the first national cabinet meeting – or any future national cabinet meetings as Albanese has backflipped on national cabinet secrecy, a practice he opposed in opposition but is committing to in government. However, it is important that workers in the healthcare sector continue to fight and push for better reforms otherwise Australia’s healthcare system will be in further decline.

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