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Time for the states to stop the stunts and sign up to the Health Care Agreement.

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Media Release

Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

30 July 2003

Time for the States to stop the stunts and sign up to the Health Care Agreement

The time has come for the State Health Ministers to take responsibility for their public hospitals, stop playing partisan politics and sign up to the Federal Government’s generous offer of a $10 billion increase in funding Senator Kay Patterson, Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, said today.

“I think the public is tired of hearing from State Labor Health Ministers that the Commonwealth is responsible for wrecking the health system when it is the States’ role to manage public hospitals,” Senator Patterson said.

“The Howard Government has delivered record funding over the last five year agreement and is committing a 17% increase over and above inflation for the next five years while the States play political football with the health agenda,” she said.

“Between 1997-98 and 2000-01, the state and territory share of total public hospital funding actually fell while the Commonwealth’s share rose.

“For the first time we are asking the States to publicly commit to how much they will spend each year on public hospitals, to match our growth in funding and to tell the Australian public what they will spend the money on.

“The Australian public expects Commonwealth money for public hospitals to be spent on public hospitals. Under current arrangements States can divert money to any of a number of other issues and then come back to the Commonwealth crying poor.

“The States would have you believe they are interested in reform but consistently when I meet with them they divert the topic to money. An example of this was the Commonwealth’s offer to provide hospital patients with PBS medications upon discharge. This would give patients the convenience of a full script and take financial pressure off the hospitals. Only three States have taken up this opportunity.

“Today’s caucusing by State and Territory Health Ministers is not an encouraging sign for the future of our health care system. However, I remain optimistic that the Ministers will be ready to work with me at tomorrow’s meeting to achieve a sensible outcome for all Australians,” Senator Patterson said.

Media enquiries: Sarah Higginbottom, Assistant Media Adviser, (02) 6277 7220