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A fair deal for hearing and health services



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Release SENATOR The Hon. CHRISTOPHER ELLISON Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Family Services

and Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General Senator for Western Australia

28 MAY 1997

A FAIR DEAL FOR HEARING AND HEALTH SERVICES

Despite the deliberate attempts at obstruction by the Labor Party, the Government has passed legislation providing for the corporatisation o f the Australian Government Health Service (AGHS) and the adoption o f full commercial practices by Australian Hearing Services (AHS).

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Family Services, Senator Chris Ellison, (who has responsibility for both AGHS and AHS) said that the Hearing Services and AGHS Reform Bill 1997 and the Hearing Services Administration Bill 1997 will corporatise the AGHS and reform the delivery of Government funded hearing services.

Senator Ellison said the bills will break the overwhelming grip that a single Government agency has had over both the supply o f and demand for hearing services and appliances (as sanctioned by Labor).

The corporatisation o f the AGHS is the first such corporatisation in the Health and Family Services portfolio and will improve services to clients through a sharper corporate focus and direct corporate accountability.

HEARING SERVICES “The Hearing Services legislation gives eligible people reliable, quality hearing services, a greater choice o f service providers and will lead to a new competitive environment between

service providers” .

“This will encourage fair competition and growth opportunities for private audiometrists and audiologists - small businesses that have struggled for business under the AHS monopoly” .

“This will allow AHS to compete to provide their services to voucher-holders, on an equal footing with commercial providers” .

“People will receive the same high quality hearing rehabilitation service they have come to expect, one that fully addresses their clinical needs” Senator Ellison said.

To ensure that this happens and to allow AHS to compete with the private sector, a new Office o f Hearing Services will be established and will have responsibility for the new arrangements.

Senator Ellison said the Office will manage the issuing o f vouchers as well as the accreditation and monitoring o f service providers. COMMONWEALTH p a r l ia m e n t a r y UBRARY

AGHS Senator Ellison said the bills bring commercial practices and competition into the Health and Family Services portfolio.

The Australian Government Health Service currently operates as a business unit within the Department o f Health and Family Services, mainly providing health assessment services for Commonwealth clients.

“The AGHS has operated off Budget on a full cost recovery basis since 1994" Senator Ellison said.

“The service will be established as a government "business enterprise in the form o f a wholly Commonwealth-owned company under corporations law” .

Senator Ellison said he was disappointed that the Opposition voted against the Government's entire AGHS/AHS reform package.

“The Government makes no apology for seeking to target assistance to users o f hearing services to those in most need”.

Further information: 06 277 3683 Media Contact: Stephanie Wood (A/H: 0412 257 563)