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  • Medicare bolstered through $2.2 billion package

    Author: AAP

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced a $2.2 billion package to overhaul Medicare to shore up Australia's struggling healthcare system.

A suite of measures was unveiled following a national cabinet meeting of state and territory leaders on Friday in Brisbane.

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They include plans to improve access to after-hours medical care for patients and introduce a patient ID system called MyMedicare.

The number of nurses will be expanded to improve access to primary care, with paramedics and pharmacists playing a greater role in the healthcare system.

Mr Albanese said health would be "front and centre" for national cabinet in 2023, with a dedicated meeting on reform to take place later this year.

The leaders endorsed the interim report of a review recommending ways Australia can immediately boost its health workforce, and remain globally competitive for workers while maintaining safety standards.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Robson said the need to keep people out of hospital had been "absolutely endorsed" by national cabinet.

"Recognising that it's no longer a siloed thing ... everybody has to work together if we're going to find solutions that will make health more accessible for all Australians," he told ABC News.

Royal Australian College of GPs president Nicole Higgins said the new funding program enabled practices to open for longer hours, meaning fewer people would turn up in crowded emergency departments.

Dr Higgins said greater action was needed to cut down visa processing times for international medical graduates.

"We must cut red tape holding back more foreign doctors from working in Australia," she said.

It comes as the latest AMA annual report card shows public hospital performance is at its lowest ever, struggling under the weight of ballooning surgery waitlists and emergency department presentations.

Professor Robson said the numbers paint a "grim picture for the future of our public hospitals and with them our patients if no action is taken".

The report card found the number of public hospital beds available for people older than 65 years had dropped by more than half in the past three decades, from 32.5 beds per 1000 people to only 14.7.

Emergency departments had a particularly tough time in the past year and only 58 per cent of patients triaged as urgent were seen within the recommended 30 minutes.

One in three patients waited more than four hours in emergency, often because there were no beds available to admit them.

The association said clearing the surgery logjam, which would require extra funding and resources, should also be a priority.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said the government was failing to address the "collapse" in bulk-billing rates.

"We do need to have our healthcare system back where it was under the coalition," she said.

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