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  • Budget 2015: Nursing and allied health groups react

    Author: Karen Keast

The 2015-2016 Federal Budget was a give and take health budget prompting a mixed reaction from some of the sector’s key stakeholders.

The Abbott Government’s second federal budget rips almost $2 billion from health over the next five years with $1 billion of savings set to come from “streamlining” funds for a range of health programs that fund measures such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health and preventative health care.

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On the flipside, the budget featured $485 million to fund a revamped opt-out national electronic medical records system, $64 million to support the Darwin-based National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, $34 million for the National Medical Stockpile for restocking essential drugs, vaccines, antidotes and protective equipment, and $400 million to establish a Medical Research Fund over the next four years.

It also included $1.4 billion in funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and an extra $20 million over two years to support the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) fears up to 100,000 nurses and midwives could lose access to government-paid parental leave entitlements under a revised childcare package.

ANMF federal secretary Lee Thomas said cuts to paid parental leave (PPL) could result in many new mothers being forced to return to work too soon.

“As Australia’s largest health union, the ANMF strongly supports the current PPL scheme, as well as the trial of subsidised nannies announced last week, given that nursing and midwifery in this country continue to be female-dominated professions, with women still comprising almost 93 per cent of the total workforce,” she said.

“However, collectively, these two announcements seem counter intuitive and appear to give with the one hand and take with the other.”

Ms Thomas said the World Health Organisation recommends 26 weeks of paid leave.

“As nurses and midwives, we all know the health benefits for both mothers and their babies, if new mums can stay at home longer,” she said.

“They can bond with their babies, breast feed for longer and not be stressed about returning to work.”

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) commended the move to a functioning eHealth system and welcomed news of a 1.5 per cent tax cut on the existing company tax rate.

APA national president Marcus Dripps said the tax break will benefit more than 5000 small physiotherapy businesses.

“Our physiotherapy members face the same pressures as every other small business owner and we are delighted with the government’s announcement on a tax break for all small businesses.”

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) said the budget delivered few surprises and no answers on the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA).

PSA acting national president Michelle Lynch welcomed the review of MBS services, the announcement of a Primary Health Care Advisory Group, the new eHealth system and tax breaks for community pharmacies.

“That said, PSA is deeply concerned that the benefits derived through this small business package could be undermined by some of the 6CPA policy proposals on the table.”

Ms Lynch said patient health could be compromised through budget plans to forge ahead with lifting the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) patient co-payment and safety net thresholds, announced in last year’s budget.

“Savings identified in the budget papers through PBS price disclosure will total $3.1 billion in 2018- 19,” she said.

“These savings should be reinvested in ensuring patients receive access to affordable evidence-based pharmacist care.”


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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