Federal Budget big on dollars, short on vision

In response to the Budget this week the AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said Australia needed a plan for its “overstretched public hospital system” before the country opened its international borders next year.  

“We’ve heard that Australia is going to open up to international borders in 2022, but to do that we need to have a system that is ready for that, that means a health system that can cope with the flu, with COVID coming into our country, and right now our public hospital system is struggling. We are seeing emergency departments overflowing, we are seeing people receiving care that is not up to the standard that we as Australians expect,” Dr Khorshid said.  

With nearly $18 billion for aged care reform and $2.3 billion for mental health and suicide prevention in the Budget, Dr Khorshid acknowledged “the extraordinary amount of money” the Government had put forward.  

He said, though, that just as with aged care, Australia needed a plan for the public hospital system which included more investment in prevention and primary care: “The big hole at the centre of the budget is public hospitals and that’s the conversation Australia needs to have going forward.”  

Dr Khorshid told Sky News on Wednesday the AMA would continue to make the case for an urgent plan in the lead up to the opening of the international borders: “I think the biggest challenge going forward is how we get Australia ready for opening our borders, and that’s remembering we have a public hospital system right now that is bursting at the seams. It is overrun with really sick Australians who can’t get in the front door.  

“They’re ramped in ambulances outside hospitals, and this is in the setting of no flu - we have record low numbers of flu patients. There’s no COVID. Now, once we open those borders, both those viruses will be coming into Australia, and even with a vaccinated population - we have to be ready, and that’s certainly going to be the AMA’s focus on advocacy with the Government following this Budget,” he said.  

Dr Khorshid also said the Budget contained no “significant vision for general practice and primary care in the Budget”, which was another missed opportunity. He said MBS funded telehealth for GPs would continue until the end of the year, but the Budget failed to give certainty needed to plan for 2022.  

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