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Put patients first and sign up to record hospital funding offer.



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Media Release

Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

August 17, 2003

PUT PATIENTS FIRST AND SIGN UP TO RECORD HOSPITAL FUNDING OFFER

Premiers Carr and Bracks should stop playing politics and put the interests of their public hospital patients first by signing up to the record $42 billion public hospital funding offer.

The Federal Government has offered the States and Territories an extra $10 billion in the new health care agreements, which need to be signed by August 31, 2003.

This is a 17% increase over and above the rate of inflation.

It is time for Mr Bracks and Mr Carr and the other State and Territory leaders to accept their responsibility. They should sign the record funding deal and get on with running their hospitals.

Today, the Premiers are demanding a 27% increase in the funding offer. This would be about an extra $2.5 billion over and above the $10 billion increase offered by the Commonwealth. This is a big increase in their previous demand for an extra $1 billion.

It is unclear on what basis they have upped their demand for more money.

The new five-year health care agreements are a major reform of hospital funding in this country. They will give greater accountability and certainty for the hospitals.

For the first time, States and Territories are being asked to give a five-year commitment to their public hospitals.

The Commonwealth puts its money on the table for five years. This gives longer-term certainty and commitment to the States’ public hospitals. They can plan ahead with confidence and run their operations more efficiently.

However, in the past, the States and Territories have only been prepared to fund their hospitals on an annual basis. Only giving short-term funding has made it difficult for State hospitals to plan ahead with confidence.

Under the new funding agreements, States will give a commitment to meet the costs of their hospitals over a five-year

period.

It is only fair and reasonable that the States and Territories give a commitment to do what the Commonwealth does.

Another part of the hospital funding reform includes a requirement for States and Territories to give a commitment that they will at least match the Commonwealth’s rate of growth in hospital funding.

In the past some States and Territories have taken record Commonwealth funding as a signal to ease back on their funding commitment.

This has not been fair to patients. The public deserves a guarantee from the States and Territories to at least match the Federal Government’s funding growth to ensure that State hospitals can plan ahead and ensure they meet their patients’ needs.

I have shown my commitment to reform. I introduced a new measure to get 107 extra medical practitioners working in hospitals by allowing international students, who have undertaken their training in Australia, to work as interns in public hospitals.

To assist the States, I have worked with the States and Territories to improve services to patients as they leave hospitals by allowing access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The Federal Government has also committed $253 million nationally through the Pathways Home program to assist people leaving hospital, particularly the elderly, to make a smooth transition back home.

I have been working for a year with State and Territory Health Ministers on an important health reform agenda.

We need to sign the new health care agreements and get on with the all-important reforms to drive better health outcomes for all Australians.

Media inquiries: Randal Markey, Media Adviser, Senator Patterson's office, 02 6277 7220.