Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Inspects redevelopment plans for the Lismore Base Hospital last August with Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin and Stewart Dowrick (right), director of corporate services for the North Coast Area Health Service.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Inspects redevelopment plans for the Lismore Base Hospital last August with Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin and Stewart Dowrick (right), director of corporate services for the North Coast Area Health Service.

Expert backs health takeover

FORMER National Party election candidate Dr Sue Page has backed a possible Federal takeover of Australia’s health system.

Dr Page, one of the region’s leading health policy experts, said a takeover would make sense, but would need to be accompanied by far-reaching reforms to fix the health system.

Dr Page’s comments come as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, more than seven months after the passing of a deadline for the states to sort out healthcare, put the idea of a Federal takeover of the nation’s hospitals squarely back on the table.

Speaking on Channel 7’s Sunrise program last week, Mr Rudd said the Government was preparing a response to last year’s consultation meetings around the country – including one in Lismore.

From that, the Government would create a long-term reform plan to be put to the states.

“If they agree to our long-term reform plan co-operatively, fine,” Mr Rudd said.

“If they don’t, then I don’t walk away one bit from our undertaking that we will then move to get a separate mandate from the people to take over the system.”

That ‘mandate’ means a referendum, presumably at this year’s Federal election, asking Australian voters to adjust the Constitution to allow the Commonwealth to take control of healthcare from the states.

Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin said Mr Rudd was determined to get health reform right.

Those reforms had already begun with funding for Lismore’s cancer unit, emergency department and rural clinical school and the Grafton Base Hospital redevelopment and GP Superclinic.

“However, more fundamental reforms are needed and proper consultation on the ground is critical,” Ms Saffin said.

Dr Page said a takeover made sense from the viewpoint of having a single authority co-ordinating an essential service.

But improvement in healthcare would come from things such as governments losing their addiction to ribbon-cutting openings, greater recognition of needs in specific areas and rationalisation of areas where money was being wasted.

“A couple of years ago I was at a conference where someone said ... you could take a transplant patient, fly them to the US, put them up in the penthouse suite of a motel at Disneyland for six weeks and have the transplant done in the private system in the US for less than it costs to do the same transplant here in Australia,” Dr Page said.

The reason for that was the comparatively small number of transplants done in Australia measured against the high cost of maintaining the multiple transplant units around the country.



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