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The Federal Government’s fiscally conservative 2016-17 Federal Budget has received a cautious thumbs up from some organisations and peak bodies in the health sector while other key stakeholders have criticised its lack of health spending.

Here’s what they had to say:

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The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) has applauded the trial of up to 200 Health Care Homes which will offer services to up to 65,000 patients with chronic and complex conditions at seven locations. The trial will cost $21.3 million from 2015-16 to 2018-19.

While the government has outlined the preferred clinician as the GP, the ACN said nurses and nurse practitioners are well positioned to take on the role as a coordinator of care.

The ACN said while the budget includes some promising new initiatives it fails to deliver ongoing health system reform with new approaches to funding, innovative models of care and a greater utilisation of the health workforce to boost service reach and impact.


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ACN CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward welcomed the continuation of the Rural Health General Practice Grants Program and ongoing funding of Home and Community Care Services in Western Australia.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) said health and aged care has now been neglected in the budget for three consecutive years.

ANMF acting federal secretary Annie Butler said nurses and midwives don’t have the resources they need to deliver quality care to patients.

“Our message to Prime Minister Turnbull is clear - if you don’t care about giving nurses and midwives the resources to run our hospitals and health services properly or to care for our elderly properly, we can’t care properly.”

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) welcomed the move to review private health insurance.

APA president Marcus Dripps said the system is rigidly focused on in-hospital care and needs to improve cover to support patients with pre-operative care or after-hospital rehabilitation.

“This represents a significant waste of resources and a lack of knowledge of correct care pathways,” he said. “We need private health insurance products that overcome this artificial divide and reduce longer hospital stays.”

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) said the budget provided greater opportunities for pharmacists but it questioned whether about $100 per patient, or $35,000 per Health Care Home, would be enough for patients with major chronic needs to access integrated care, including having a pharmacist on the team.

PSA vice president Michelle Lynch also applauded the proposed redesign of the Practice Incentives Program for general practice.

“We look forward to contributing to the design of these reforms based on best practice examples before the implementation of new arrangements in May 2017, as part of our ongoing advocacy, supporting a model for pharmacists in general practice,” she said.

The Australian Medical Association criticised the extension of the freeze on the Medicare patient rebate until 2020.

AMA president Professor Brian Owler said the freeze will take $1 billion out of the pockets of patients and householders while the pause in the indexation of the Medicare Levy Surcharge and the Private Health Insurance Rebate will also disadvantage many Australians.

“The poorest, the sickest and the most vulnerable will be the hardest hit,” he said.

Measures in the $89.5 billion health budget include:
  • Mental health reforms to be established at nine demonstration sites in 2016-17, along with support for the first stages of a national mental health digital gateway
  • $20.4 million to fast track access to vital life-saving medicines and medical devices
  • $63.8 million over five years for access to affordable drugs to treat conditions, including breast and prostate cancer and melanoma
  • Dental reform through a single national Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme, at a cost of $1.7 billion over the forward estimates
  • $3 million to further subsidise the use of MRIs to detect some types of breast cancers via Medicare
  • $2.2 million for the continued national registers for breast and cardiac devices, such as pacemakers and stents, to reduce stress and anxiety surrounding any safety recalls
  • A $0.8 million online support tool to help tackle perinatal depression and $10.5 million to help prevent, diagnose and treat Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
  • $29.9 million to create a National Cancer Screening Register
  • $33.8 million to list new Medicare items subsidising sight-saving tests every two years for people at risk of diabetes-related eye diseases
  • $4.5 million to fight against blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections in the Torres Strait region
  • $0.6 million to support patients who contracted Hepatitis C through blood transfusions in the 1980s and 1990s
  • $5.3 million for the Health Star Food rating
  • Securing $66.2 million over four years with tougher Medicare compliance approaches that will use data and analytics to better detect fraud, abuse, waste and errors in Medicare claims.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords