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Dr Wooldridge backs Victorian primary health care reforms.

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Media Release

The Hon Dr Michael Wooldridge, MP

Minister for Health and Aged Care


MW 40/99  

15 April 1999


Dr Michael Wooldridge, Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, today endorsed Victor ia’s reforms in primary health care and community support.

Dr Wooldridge was speaking at a breakfast function in Melbourne with Hon. Rob Knowles, Victorian Minister for Health and Aged Care.

“Victoria’s reforms are a clear sign that a focus on primary health care and the flexibility built into the Australian Health Care Agreements are of great benefit to the health of the community,” Dr Wooldridge said.

“The new thrust of primary health care in Victoria maps out a new and vital path for Australia’s health system.

“The Commonwealth Government not only endorses the direction that Victoria is taking but is positioning itself to take a much stronger national leadership role in supporting such endeavours and ensuring that the primary health care approach and lessons learned from our trials in coordinated care become the norm in health care in Australia,” Dr Wooldridge said.

Key initiatives already being undertaken by the Commonwealth in this area are the 13 coordinated care trials currently occurring throughout Australia plus a number of initiatives in train such as

  • To provide through Medicare, for general practitioners to be involved in multidisciplinary care planning and case management for those people with chronic and complex needs.
  • To provide incentives at the practice level for General Practitioners to achieve such care plans for those people over 65 and with chronic and complex needs.
  • To provide, for those people over 75, voluntary health assessments focussing on issues of prevention and better manage ment of chronic illness, with these assessments to be done at the person’s home where appropriate.
  • As announced by the Prime Minister, the Government had promised to address the health care needs of older people who are chronically ill or disadvantaged at a cost of around $25 million.

“The great challenge in health care over the next 20 to 30 years is to find better ways to manage chronic illness, to ensure a focus on prevention and to provide coordinated care that suits the needs of individuals,” Dr Woold ridge said.

“This challenge makes it vitally important to reward efforts to prevent illness before it occurs rather than simply providing incentives to treat sickness after it happens,” Dr Wooldridge said.

Dr Wooldridge said this fresh approach to primary health care is evident in Victoria’s reforms and also in the 13 coordinated trials funded by the Commonwealth.

“These are already showing promising early results. Early data from the HealthPlus trial on the Eyre Peninsula indicates that the incidence of hospitalisation for young people with diabetes and chronic cardiovascular illness amongst that community is down 15-20% since mid 1997,” Dr Wooldridge said.

“Among the Aboriginal community at Ceduna, a coordinated care approach has meant that where previously there was one and a half hospital admissions per person per year for that community, the number has dropped one third in the last 18 months down to just one hospitalisation per year.

“Even more striking is the evidence that there is much greater use of primary health care with a focus on prevention - in fact, in Ceduna, it’s up 25%. That’s a great sign that we’ve shifted the focus in these communities, trying to prevent illness and if we can’t do so, finding ways to better manage illness in those populations.

“In Melbourne the North Eastern trial is already showing that the rate of hospitalisation is 8 per cent lower amongst people receiving coordinated, primary health care services provided through a GP than the so called control group,” Dr Wooldridge said.

Dr Wooldridge said that a crucial element in the success of the Victorian reforms and of the Commonwealth’s own reform agenda in primary health care is the way General Practitioners are incorporated into the primary health care system.

“GPs understanding and knowledge of their patient’s health will always be the foundation for building broader systems of support. Every Australian sees a GP on average 6 times a year - that’s 110 million visits a year - and their role in primary health care has often been undervalued,” Dr Wooldridge said.

“The role of GPs was vital to the immunisation efforts over the last two years - in particular with the immunisation of over one and a half million children against measles - and their ongoing active involvement is important in seeing the overall rate of i mmunisation reach its target level of 90-95% in 2000. The immunisation campaign showed that teamwork between doctors, nurses and other health professionals is the only way to go in providing better primary health care,” Dr Wooldridge said.

Dr Wooldridge also said he welcomed that an essential part of Victoria’s reform measures includes building in a communications/IT component.

“Information technology both for providers who are coordinating services and for individuals seeking advice and direction are at the heart of a modern health system,” Dr Wooldridge said.

Dr Wooldridge congratulated Mr Rob Knowles and the Victorian Government for their leadership on this issue and the vital role played by the Divisions of General Practice - Victoria, the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Victorian Health Care Association and the Victorian AMA.

Media Contact:  

Peter Collins, Dr Wooldridge’s office, on 0412.243.152




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