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Health budget fails public hospitals

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Senator Meg Lees

Australian Democrats Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson


THE country's public hospitals have been let down yet again by the Howard Government in its 1997/98 Budget, the Australian Democrats say.

While welcoming a number of initiatives in the Health portfolio, Democrats Health Spokesperson Senator Meg Lees said there were two glaring gaps in expenditure:

• in the continuing failure of the government to take responsibility for public dental services; • in its failure to repair the damage done to Australia's public hospitals by years of cuts in Commonwealth hospital funding grants to the States.

"The government had an opportunity with this Budget to put something back into public hospitals. Its failure to do so will leave many hospitals struggling to deliver a decent service in sub-standard buildings, with poor equipment and Jaw staff morale," Senator Lees said.

"The beleaguered dental health services are no better off. Having abolished the Commonwealth Dental Health Program last year, the government is apparently determined to take no responsibility at all for the dental health of low income earners.

"That represents a very serious gap in Australia's health system and one which will end up costing us a lot of money."

The Democrats will be moving for a Senate inquiry into public dental services in the coming weeks.

Senator Lees welcomed other aspects of the Health Budget, saying there were several small, but positive measures, including the continuation of the Palliative Care Program, the re-commitment to the National Mental Health Strategy and the continuation of the Women's Health Program for a further year.

Senator Lees will discuss Health Budget details in the Democrats' party room before setting out a formal response.

To arrange comment contact Kelly Westell on (06) 277 3765 or phone Senator Lees on 0418 804 505.

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