The AMA is calling for the extension of federal COVID-19 funding and a new public hospital funding agreement to be top of the agenda when state and territory leaders meet for the first time with the Prime Minister on Friday.
AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid spoke to media at Parliament House in Canberra ahead of the meeting, telling journalists Prime Minister Anthony Albanese needed not only to make good his promise to work constructively with the states on hospital and health system pressures, but also to take immediate action.
“With consensus on hospital funding reform among state and territory leaders, Friday’s first meeting with Prime Minister Albanese is a real moment for the health system,” Dr Khorshid said.
“The health system is under enormous pressure as staff deal with the triple whammy of the serious flu season, continued COVID infections and delayed healthcare, meaning people are presenting with severe problems and that’s all on top of regular demand from our growing and ageing population.
“We know with cost-of-living pressures, it won’t be easy and the government has already pointed to the need to address debt, but we shouldn’t accept ambulance ramping, lengthening elective surgery lists and dangerous emergency department waiting times. These are evidence of governments failing to invest in health.
“At stake here is your loved ones and mine becoming the next statistics of a failing system.”
Dr Khorshid said the PM, working with state and territory leaders, needs to address a checklist of health reform:
- extend the National Partnership Agreement on COVID-19 beyond September, preferably until 2025
- draw up a new National Health Reform Agreement where states and territories equally share hospital funding 50-50 with the commonwealth and the 6.5 per cent cap on growth is scrapped. The states re-invest the freed-up 5 percent into improving hospital performance
- address the critical workforce shortage in health and the ongoing impact of the pandemic on that workforce
- make private health insurance more enticing through value for money, with a private health system Authority to watchdog the system
- tackle chronic disease - the biggest burden on the health system, with earlier prevention intervention and management in the community.
The health funding discussion between leaders was widely vaunted in the media this week with The Guardianreporting Dr Khorshid’s calls for leaders to come up with a new Covid strategy to try to ease the burden over winter, after the issue had largely been ignored during the election campaign.
Dr Khorshid also featured in coverage from The Australian; “There is no sugar-coating this – a lack of action on funding will mean people continue to die un-necessarily in the back of ambulances or waiting in vain for one to arrive,” he told the newspaper.
The AMA’s recent Ambulance Ramping Report Card showed every state and territory failing its own performance targets on ambulance ramping.
The AMA’s Public Hospitals: Cycle of crisis report explained the funding formula’s shortcomings and modelled dire consequences if all governments fail to act.