WITH the federal election fast approaching, The Irrigator is giving each of the nine candidates in the running for the seat of Farrer the opportunity to have their say on a certain issue each week.
This week's topic is health and the associated issues in the MIA.
Kieran Drabsch (Labor)
Labor is committed to restoring funding to our hospitals and providing greater access to healthcare in rural and regional communities.
We will be ending the Medicare Freeze, ensuring more doctors bulk bill and lower gap payments. Restore 50/50 funding model between Federal and State government. Establish The Australian Health Reform Commission to end the 'boom and bust' cycle of health funding and reform by ensuring an expert body formulates and delivers long term health reform.
For our community we will deliver a 24/7 Telestroke facility at Albury Hospital. Provide our seniors with access to a $1000 of dental care each year. As part of Labor's commitment to reducing the burden of illness Labor will ensure all out of pocket health expenses related to cancer diagnosis and treatment will be abolished.
As a community we expect the NDIS to deliver quality services and care for the disabled. Labor is committed to ending the chaos, cuts and scandals delivered by the Coalition government in rolling out the NDIS. Labor is committed to fixing the NDIS, reduce waiting times and provide the services our communities need to support the disabled in rural and regional communities.
The shortage of GP's and the gradual privatisation of health within our community is a grave concern. Developing a strategy to overcome this dire public health challenge is critical. In my time listening to families, workers and older Australians it is clear that in the past six years access to doctors and healthcare has become increasingly difficult. I am committed to alleviating this challenge.
Labor has a plan to fix our hospitals, improve access to healthcare and end the chaos, cuts and scandals of this Coalition Government.
Sussan Ley (Liberals)
My government, the Coalition government, absolutely understands the community's frustration with the seeming 'rotating door' of GP's in smaller towns across our region.
The time I have here doesn't really allow me to run through the varied practical and commercial reasons this occurs, but it is important to note the Federal Government does not directly employ doctors.
What we can do, combined with the local Primary Health Network, is to initiate good policy to help make it more attractive to entice medical practitioners to rural area.
And that is why we have introduced a new Stronger Rural Health Strategy which is designed to attract and retain GP's in smaller rural communities.
This $550 million program will deliver 3000 additional doctors and more than 3000 additional nurses and allied health professionals in rural general practice over the next decade. It will be the delivered alongside local clinical and community consultation, for a long-term plan to better sustain general practice and primary health care across the MIA.
More broadly, we are committed to record funding for both Medicare and a new hospital agreement, a fully funded NDIS and no increase in the Medicare Levy.
Since we came into government, over 2000 medicine listings worth over $10.6 billion have been added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and we have increased the Medicare rebate for important diagnostic services, including ultrasound and X-ray imaging to reduce the costs.
Medicare funding has increased in Farrer per annum from $129m to $158 - up $30m in five years.
For those with private health insurance, our reforms in this space have resulted in the lowest premium changes in 18 years at 3.25 per cent.
We can only continue to deliver on health by managing a strong national economy, allowing us to guarantee the essential services we all rely on
Kevin Mack (Independent)
When it comes to health, there are a number of priorities for the MIA; many common across Farrer.
I would work with state and federal governments to progress planning and funding for a new hospital for Griffith on an agreed greenfield site. This is a priority issue for the region and while some would argue this is a State issue only; there is precedent for Federal funding and support of health services including major infrastructure.
I would work again with all levels of Government to address the GP workforce shortage in Farrer, including Griffith, Yanco, Leeton, Narrandera. These areas are all distinctly short of GPs. Questions need to be asked about the existing formula that is now used to allocate, or rather not allocate GPs to rural centres. Local governments should not be using ratepayers' money to provide a GP service in their towns. I would be working with the Federal Department to make the appropriate changes to this formula to improve the allocation of GP resources to these regions.
It is not just GP services that must be supported and grown in rural areas. Allied health services including physiotherapists and occupational therapists also need to be included in workforce assessment and provision.
Mental health services must address all levels of care - early intervention, acute care and recovery. Mental health services also need to recognise the needs of all age groups, whether that is through the provision or extension of services such as headspace, as well as adult services and those for older people.
A rural loading on Medicare rebates would recognise the higher cost of providing medical services, costs often passed onto patients.
Ross Hamilton (Sustainable Australia Party)
Most candidates will tell you our issues in health require more money and a change in funding models. While I fully agree with independent candidate Kevin Mack, there is more to the story. I work within the health system and from experience our main issue is people rather than money. Health works like an ecosystem. Every component from the GP, to the specialist to allied health and then the patient need to play their role. If one of those parts is missing, the other components suffer. That's not only why we have poorer health outcomes in the country, but it's also why doctors have higher rates of burnout and suicide.
To make the system work smoothly, we need to fill in the gaps like access to specialists, acute mental health care and the missing fracture clinic in Griffith. Then to address the doctor shortage it's time to train medical specialists in the regions where they can put down roots and stay. Currently specialists are trained in the big cities, usually between the ages of 25 to 35. Right at the age they get married, buy a house and have kids. Stronger roots are hard to find.
A system of medical scholarships can also be created for students from the country. Currently we try to force graduates and overseas doctors to the regions. This is a band aid solution because they leave shortly afterwards, creating a churn that we all suffer from. Students from the country are the most likely to come back and stay for their whole career.
Lastly, allied health is an underutilized resource. Expanding the Chronic Disease Management Program can take load off GPs. I would also like to create an extended scope physiotherapist course to take over the musculoskeletal case load and allow doctors to practice life saving medicine instead of practicing paperwork.
Mark Ellis (Liberal Democratic Party)
The Liberal Democrats are a fundamentally a small government and low taxing party. Medical services are just one area where successive governments have over promised and will eventually default, regardless of what they say today. The Liberal Democrats would seek to depart considerably from the socialist medical system we currently have with its huge bureaucracy, massive wasteful spending and medical service providers set up to maximise their share of government subsidies. Most people can look after their own health, including through private insurance and membership of friendly societies. Family, community and charity can assist the least well off. And governments can help people look after themselves by reducing their taxes and freeing society to generate more jobs and higher incomes.
We would seek to replace Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme with a medical expenses subsidy for citizens that rises as medical expenses increase and falls as income and assets increase. This will be paid via the savings account scheme described in our Welfare policy. See LDP.org.au. (If just half of government health-related spending were redirected to fund the medical expenses subsidy, the average subsidy would exceed $2000 per Australian. The subsidy for the poor and chronically ill would be significantly higher).
Nonetheless, more than 60 years of significant government interference in people's management of their own health has bred dependency and eroded civil society. Renewing independence and civil society will take generational change.
While it is not possible for the LDP to form a government in this election the people of Farrer should send Mark Ellis, and Duncan Spender in the senate, to Canberra to push for lower cost of living, smaller Government and lower taxes, not a Socialist tax and spend economy.
Philip Langfield (Christian Democratic Party)
There's not enough rural doctors. There's a lot of small towns that have no doctors at all, when 50 years ago they had two to three. They've drifted to Sydney up and down the east coast, and it's simply because they're not spending enough in the bush.
The further west you go in NSW the more neglect there is. It's just total neglect by the major political parties. They are starting to do some things in this area, but they need to do a lot more. People out in the bush are having to drive all the way to Wagga to get basic treatment.
Out in the bush we need more infrastructure in general, because rural Australia is faring very badly. When you go out into the bush you see hospitals, schools, police stations, and courthouses that are hundreds of years old. When you see a hospital that's more than 50 60 years old it's definitely due for a replacement.
When you see the money they're pouring out in the cities it becomes clear we're getting the raw end of the stick out in rural Australia. They've got so much money they can knock down stadiums that are only 20 to 30 years old; it shows they've certainly got the major parties have their priorities wrong.
Dean Moss (Greens)
With a General Practitioner as our party leader, The Australian Greens are in a strong position to deliver a quality policy for health care. Unfortunately, in regional and rural areas, we have seen a consistent failure in commitment to appropriate funding and health services support and we have seen a decline in services available in the MIA.
We know there is poorer access to specialists and allied health providers in regional areas, higher costs of transport to appointments and woefully inadequate communication infrastructure to larger-city support centres. All these contribute to the increased rate of illness and death that regional, rural and remote areas experience.
The Greens policies are based on studies which show that if we improve preventative services, health outcomes improve and there is a decreased long-term financial burden on the healthcare system. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has endorsed the Greens preventative-health focused plan which includes funding dental under Medicare, addressing mental health in our struggling communities and focusing on the key social determinants of health, such as income, education, housing and social support.
I plan on working with our on-the-ground organisations to ensure appropriate resource allocation to the region. This means working closely with the Murrumbidgee and Western Primary Health Networks to help recruit and retain primary care providers, develop appropriate tele-health supports and facilitate access to specialists. The Greens have also committed $100-million to upgrade our most neglected healthcare facilities and $3.5-billion for a national dental plan.
It's time our residents received the care, attention and healthcare support they deserve. It's time our government focused on fixing the cause, not covering the symptoms, of poor rural health. I will continue to advocate for Farrer's wellbeing to ensure our region can grow in a healthy and sustainable way.
Brian Mills (Independent)
In relation to Griffith it is good to have two hospitals. However, government does not provide anywhere near enough funding for doctors, nurses and specialists who live in Griffith.
It is good that some specialists are able to visit Griffith but there other specialists and their services who can only be accessed by visiting Wagga, Albury or capital cities. There are many places like Leeton and Deniliquin who have few even basic services who have the costs of visiting Griffith or other larger centres to contend with. My time in Parliament would be constantly directed towards getting other members who represent regional electorates to work together because they all have the same problems.
From there we should seek those who are prepared to help country people regardless of which electorates they are in. The health team should prepare statistics and zero in on such disastrous items that Griffith for example has seven times the national average for motor neuron disease. There should me a map of Australian hot spots.
There should be research data of causes. This should then lead to plans for treatment, for reducing the suffering and for planned elimination. Once the team attracts attention of, for instance, MND there should be constructive attention for MIA and all country cancer hot spots.
I know from personal involvement that Can Assist has done a magnificent job in public awareness and public donations. My position in Parliament would be to direct my time and energy to make Parliament and all of Australia aware of this grass roots wonderful initiative and turn it into a world leading move towards the elimination of cancer.
This has been done in relation to polio, for measles (despite a few set backs) and other situations. Sometimes miracles can start in the smallest of ways. Could this letter lead to a miracle?
- United Australia Party Mike Rose was unable to submit an answer prior to the deadline.
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