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Catholic Health regrets governments' cave-in on health

Catholic Health Australia expressed strong disappointment following the breakdown in health discussions at Friday's Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra.

CHA CEO Francis Sullivan said: "Despite the widespread recognition of major problems with the health system, it appears that the next set of health care agreements will be signed without any substantial new plans to improve access to care or reduce the inefficiencies and inequities that bedevil the system."

The Premiers did in fact sign the agreement over the weekend, stressing their great reluctance to do so.

The leaders say they will be more than $1 billion worse off as a result of the deal, but the consequences of not signing would have been even worse. NSW Health Minister Morris Iemma said his Government had no choice but to agree to the federal funding plan that he said would cost his state $278 million over five years. If NSW had failed to sign by yesterday's deadline it faced losing $10 million and being penalised $150,000 in hospital funding for each day that it failed to sign.

CHA's Francis Sullivan said: "For those left with having to deal with the difficulties of running public hospitals and juggling inadequate budgets in the face of increasing demands, the COAG breakdown brings no solice."

"Australia needs health reform and everyone deserves a better deal on access to essential care," he said. "COAG must seriously consider a mechanism to advance real improvements and correct glaring inequities in the system."

Health and Ageing Minister Kay Patterson claims that the weekend's signing will clear the way for the implementation of a so-called "co-operative" health reform agenda between the Federal and State governments.

"I am determined to do all I can to improve health outcomes for people," she said. "I am looking forward to working co-operatively with my State and Territory colleagues to implement important health reforms."

Catholic Health Australia

Not happy, John, but premiers sign health fund deal (Sydney Morning Herald)
Leaders walk out of meeting (The Age 29/8/03)
Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Framework
Catholic Health Australia
Catholic Health issues urgent call for on health reform (29/8/03)
Health system the only loser if COAG drops the reform option (CHA media release 27/8/03)
Federal Minister to lead co-operative health reform agenda (Health and Ageing Minister Kay Patterson, media release)

32 Sep 2003