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Added layer of costly health bureaucracy is counterproductive.

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Media Release

Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

12 June 2003


The call for a new layer of bureaucracy to oversee Commonwealth-State health relations is flawed and would create significant new costs for all Governments, the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

She rejected the proposal of the new Australian Health Reform Alliance for the establishment of an Australian Health Care Reform Commission.

Senator Patterson said: "This is not only an unnecessary new layer of administration, but it will create significant new costs for all Governments.

"This money would be better spent by putting it into health services."

Senator Patterson said the Alliance had entered the political debate, unwittingly or otherwise, by calling on Labor States and Territories not to sign the Federal Government's record $42 billion new hospital funding offer.

"It is disappointing to see that this new group is so political. The fact is that the Federal Government is committed to working with the States and Territories," she said.

Senator Patterson has written to State and Territory Health Ministers to say that she intends to attend the next scheduled meeting of the Australian Health Ministers' Conference on July 31, to discuss health reform proposals.

"We have offered the States a record deal to fund their hospitals properly for the next five years. We are offering the States a $10 billion increase in funding, which is a 17% increase above the rate of inflation.

"The offer is on the table. We want to see the States and Territories do the right thing by their patients in

their hospitals and match our rate of growth in funding.

"They should be prepared to do what they demand of the Commonwealth. That is to tell everyone how much money they are prepared to commit to their public hospital system over the five-year life of the agreement.

Senator Patterson said the new hospitals' funding offer was a major reform in transparency and accountability because it required all parties to give a firm commitment to funding over five years to allow State hospitals to have the confidence and certainty of making longer-term plans in the interests of their patients.

"The public has a right to know what level of funding their State is committed to in running their State public hospital system and to be confident that they won't be short-changed."

Senator Patterson said under current arrangements the responsibilities of the States and Commonwealth are clear. The States are responsible for running their hospitals.

Proposals flagged by the Alliance seemed to head down the path of blurring responsibilities.

She said an important issue was missing from the Alliance's agenda.

"I am very concerned when I receive correspondence from public hospital patients stating they have been forced to disclose if they have private health insurance," Senator Patterson said.

"The Labor Party talks about universality of Medicare. However, by their actions they are undermining the universality of Medicare by trying to prevent patients accessing public hospital services for free.

"I have been advised that this has occurred in at least New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia even though the decision to disclose whether they have private health insurance is entirely a matter for the patients and not the hospital."

For more information contact Randal Markey, Media Adviser, (02) 62777220 or 0417 694 520

Published on Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing web site 12 June 2003