Health care tops agenda at national cabinet meeting

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will today meet with state and territory leaders to consider a plan to solve challenges within Australia’s health care system.

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Premiers and chief ministers will meet Albanese in Canberra for the first national cabinet meeting of the year, after he hosted dinner at the Lodge on Thursday night.

At the top of the agenda will be the findings of a review by the Medicare task force on measures to improve health care affordability and accessibility, support Australians with chronic health conditions and take pressure off hospitals.

Leaders will also be updated on ‘Closing the Gap’ measures for First Nations people, energy priorities, national firearms reform, local government and housing.

Health Minister Mark Butler said the Medicare advisory group had recommended measures to improve access to health care and deliver better patient support.

“Australians deserve access to a primary care system for the 21st century,” he said.

“A system that reflects the disease profile of an older population, including a population that has more complex chronic disease.”

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas told ABC Radio this morning that while a practical outcome was unlikely from today’s meeting, he was confident the federal government was committed to addressing the issue.

“There is now a high degree of urgency in every single state and territory for the Commonwealth to do a lot more around primary health care reform because there is not a public hospital or an emergency department in the country that is not under unprecedented strain as a result of the breakdown in our primary health care system,” Malinauskas said.

“When we hear about South Australians now waiting on average 55 per cent longer to see a GP than what was the case three years ago, it’s little wonder that people end up presenting in emergency departments in ever increasing volumes with conditions that really should have been treated from a GP months earlier.”

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NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet called for new ways to address challenges such as long wait times and decreasing staff numbers.

“The first thing is we need to better integrate the primary care, GP network with the public health system … right across the country,” he told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

Perrottet said it was important for all levels of government to start with the best policies, rather than focus on a specific dollar amount.

“Whether it’s pharmacy reform, telehealth, extra bulk-billing rates and GPs, these are the types of measures that will make a real difference and that’s what I’ll be discussing with the premiers, chief ministers and the prime minister,” he said.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners called on leaders to put patients first in Medicare reforms.

The college’s president Nicole Higgins said improving costs and access to medicines must be on the table, as well as reforming anti-competitive pharmacy laws.

“The Medicare task force review is about improving access to care for patients and we need to consider everything as part of this,” she said.

“Australia’s pharmacy ownership laws are anti-competitive and this inflates the cost to consumers, makes it harder for people to access medicines and reduces choice.”

-with AAP

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