PM must restore goodwill

3 minute read

Cost cutting in Canberra has destroyed GPs’ trust and may jeopardise reform moves


Cost cutting in Canberra has destroyed GPs’ trust and may jeopardise reform moves

AMA president Dr Michael Gannon has asked the Prime Minister to “stare down” the cost-cutters in cabinet and step up investment in general practice to assure political survival.

Addressing the National Press Club last week, Dr Gannon said the conservatives went to the July 3 election “oblivious or unprepared” about voters’ mounting concerns about budget cuts chipping away at Medicare.

“There’s no doubt that health was a game-changer at the election. It was very nearly a government-changer, too,” he said in the nationally televised address. “While we have seen some changes, we still see the same health policies from before the election. Many of them are bad health policies.”

He listed the ongoing MBS rebate freeze, hospital funding cuts, and cuts to bulk-billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging, and the political disaster of the government’s two failed GP co-payment plans, as issues fuelling voter concerns.

“The take-home message for the government is clear – health matters, ignore health policy at your peril.”

Since being returned with a wafer-thin margin, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had acknowledged the need to revisit some policies and be more consultative. Dr Gannon said that meant: “No surprises. No more secret deals on medical schools, serious investment in our doctors in training, serious investment in GPs.”

Dr Gannon said there was no health spending crisis, and government must start to look at health as an opportunity for wise investment, not just as a cost. “This will create tension inside the government, but the Prime Minister and the Health Minister must stare down treasury and finance to maintain health as a priority issue. Indeed, a political survival issue for the coalition.”

With GPs caught in a “diabolical squeeze” of rising costs and falling incomes in the name of budget repair, general practice should be the top priority, Dr Gannon said.

In recent days, he said he had told senior health officials they faced a significant “trust and goodwill deficit” among GPs that could wreck the GP-led “health care home” trials to start next year.

The centrepiece reform, embraced by Health Minister Sussan Ley to reduce chronic disease and hospital visits, had set-up funding of only $21 million, mostly destined for consultants.

“GPs are going to be asked to deliver enhanced care to patients with no extra support. This simply does not stack up,” he said. “Unless the government restores goodwill by unravelling the freeze and invests the extra funding required… GPs will not engage with the trial and they’ll walk away from this essential reform.”

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