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Calls for health reform before election campa -

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Calls for health reform before election campaign

Sarah Dingle reported this story on Tuesday, February 9, 2010 12:41:00

ELEANOR HALL: Australia's Pharmacy Guild has confirmed that some pharmacists are not comfortable
with the new powers given to them by the Federal Government in its attempt to lift the load on the
public health system.

It could be another sign that major national health reform is needed, but one health expert says
it's looking highly unlikely that the Federal Government will carry out its threat of a takeover of
state hospitals as Sarah Dingle reports.

SARAH DINGLE: The Australian Pharmacy Guild has rushed to rebuff reports that some pharmacists
don't feel comfortable with their powers to issue sick certificates.

Kos Sclavos is the guild's national president.

KOS SCLAVOS: Now modern pharmacists today have studied for four years minimum at university. They
do a fifth year as an intern. Perhaps some of the older pharmacists are uncomfortable but I can
assure you those pharmacists are more than capable of performing this task.

SARAH DINGLE: Dr Andrew Pesce is the president of the Australian Medical Association.

ANDREW PESCE: A lot of pharmacists themselves are saying that they don't feel that they've got the
competency professionally to make the diagnoses which are necessary.

SARAH DINGLE: Dr Pesce says if the complaint isn't sorted out, patients will have to go and see a
GP anyway and that the GP shortage still hasn't been adequately addressed by the super clinics,
which were a major campaign point of the Rudd Government at the last election.

ANDREW PESCE: There is a place of super clinics but that's where there's no other way to provide
services to the communities and the first priority for the government should be to identify the
existing infrastructure in those communities to see in what way extra funding may enhance general
practice infrastructure.

SARAH DINGLE: Dr Jim Gillespie is the deputy director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy. He
says since the election the Government has devoted serious thought to health reform.

JIM GILLESPIE: But in some areas there's been very little action seems to be following,
particularly on bigger structural things like the shape of the hospitals.

SARAH DINGLE: This morning the Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon was asked by ABC local radio in
Canberra's Ross Solly whether she would carry out the Government's threat to take over state
hospitals if they didn't shape up.

NICOLA ROXON: We thought there needed to be long term reform to the system. We said that we wanted
to do that together with the states and territories, to deliver that reform and that if they
weren't going to be party to that reform that we would go to the public and seek their mandate for
us at the Commonwealth level to take over all of the funding control of the hospitals.

ROSS SOLLY: Which you did at last election.

NICOLA ROXON: Now we are still on that timetable.

ROSS SOLLY: No, no, sorry Minister. Your timetable was by middle of last year. That was the
timetable you set.

NICOLA ROXON: Yes and the reason we are on the timetable is that we agreed that the states and
territories needed to be participating in reform.

On Monday, in fact, I have the last meeting with our state leaders and territory leaders talking
about the reform plans. So we are very close to being able to release a national reform plan.

JIM GILLESPIE: I can't see the Commonwealth actually doing it.

SARAH DINGLE: Jim Gillespie.

JIM GILLESPIE: Some of the states are falling over themselves to say go ahead, take them. New South
Wales has been saying that for the last half century.

SARAH DINGLE: Dr Gillespie says instead of a federal takeover, the state based system could provide
solutions.

JIM GILLESPIE: We don't actually use the advantages of federalism. One is you can experiment in one
place. If it's a disaster, it is only happening in one part of the country.

SARAH DINGLE: Dr Pesce says whatever reform emerges he wants it to be released soon.

ANDREW PESCE: I would really encourage governments not to leave it to the last minute to be
announced in the heat of an election campaign.

SARAH DINGLE: Health reform is expected to surface high on the agenda at next month's Council of
Australian Governments meeting.

ELEANOR HALL: Sarah Dingle with our report.