INFORMED: Labor Senator Jan McLucas, Lismore resident Cathy Ridd and Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill.
INFORMED: Labor Senator Jan McLucas, Lismore resident Cathy Ridd and Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill. HAMISH BROOME

Healthcare workers stressed and care services struggling

LABOR and the Greens will join to block the Federal Government's attempts to introduce a GP co-payment, according to Labor Senator Deborah O'Neill, who visited Lismore yesterday as part of a national Senate inquiry into health policy.

The announcement followed several local speakers who revealed the deep unpopularity of Coalition's proposed changes to health funding.

They spoke about a litany of issues, from frontline health services under pressure to the increasing burden of costly "lifestyle diseases" such as diabetes.

Lismore local Cathy Ridd, whose 62-year-old husband Andy is dying from motor-neurone disease, said better care was needed for those with rapidly degenerating diseases such as MND.

Nurses Association Lismore Base Hospital branch secretary Gil Wilson said the proposed co-payment would push lower socio-economic groups into emergency departments which were already overcrowded.

"It will cause people to stop... being proactive about their health," Mr Wilson said.

Local physiotherapist Kate Greenaway highlighted the need to fund preventative self-care programs to address the one in five Australians with chronic pain who already cost the system "$34 billion a year".

"They're predicting that this will increase with the ageing population to over five million people," Ms Greenaway said.

Local GP Jane Barker and nurse Elizabeth Dolan said the health of frontline healthcare staff could implode with further cuts.

Dr Barker said Australia had one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but had reached a point where staff were facing an "intolerable" level of stress, with burnout a career hazard.

Northern Rivers Social Development Council chief executive Tony Davies said research funding needed to also focus on social research into effective prevention strategies.

"What we need is a healthcare system that generates health in the community; what we have is a system that focuses on treatment of acute conditions," Mr Davies said.

"If we don't get serious about prevention it won't be sustainable.

"The focus needs to come back on to health equity."



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