Monday, May 25, 2009


Government cool on hospital takeover

Mark Metherell, smh

May 25, 2009

THE Rudd Government is expected to stop short of a financial takeover of public hospitals and instead seek control of other health areas including outpatient care and community health services.

In the strongest sign yet that the Government will abandon moves to take over hospitals unless they came up to scratch, the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, said yesterday there were "positive signs" of improvement in public hospitals. Despite continued signs of long waiting lists and hospital strains, Ms Roxon said there had been "significant developments" in hospitals, and state governments had agreed to sign on to "improved outcomes".

The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission is being tipped in government circles to sidestep a total federal takeover and instead recommend in its final report next month that the Commonwealth assume financial say over outpatient care and all health services outside hospitals. This would enable better co-ordination of primary health care by doctors, nurses and community services.

The commission said in its interim report this year that while it would involve a significant shift in responsibility to the Commonwealth, it would involve less disruption to existing responsibilities than other more radical schemes.

The Commonwealth could secure a greater say over in-hospital care by introducing a payment system tied more closely to actual caseload, rather than untargeted payments.

Asked on Channel Nine about the Government's stance given that no one believed public hospitals were up to scratch, Ms Roxon said there had been significant developments since Labor took office. "I think there are some positive signs, but that does not mean everything is fixed," she said.

But the Opposition's health spokesman, Peter Dutton, said Kevin Rudd was deserting his promise to end the "blame game" over funding between federal and state governments.

The Government had watered down its pledge and was walking away from its promise to take over public hospital funding, Mr Dutton said on Channel Ten.

On a related issue, the Government plans to introduce legislation to means test the health insurance rebate in the next two weeks to intensify pressure on the Opposition over blocking a budget measure that would generate $1.9 billion in savings over four years.