Labor health policy "a good start": Catholic Health

Stating that more detail is needed on how hospital waiting lists would be reduced under sweeping health care reforms proposed by the Opposition, Catholic Health Australia head Francis Sullivan says that Labor's new policy is a "good start but surely not the whole story".

The Australian reports that in his speech to the Australian Health Insurance Summit yesterday, the Opposition Leader nominated obesity, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption as key targets in his fight against chronic disease.

"To equip our health system to deal with the challenge of chronic disease, we need to intervene before people become unwell," Mr Rudd said.

A Labor government would also establish a permanent taskforce within the Department of Health and Ageing to develop a National Preventative Healthcare Strategy to formulate a chronic disease battle plan.

Mr Rudd signalled his support for the Australian Medical Association's bid to reform Medicare, which he said was suffering from underinvestment and a lack of long-term planning.

"Good health policy is good economic policy," he said.

Mr Rudd said the present health system was "too reactive" and focused on short-term, episodic care, rather than long-term prevention.

In addition to commissioning Treasury to produce reports on the impact of chronic diseases, Mr Rudd said he would also negotiate "preventative healthcare partnerships" with the states and territories as part of the coming Australian Health Care Agreements.

The current system did not provide incentives for governments to invest in evidence-based prevention, he said.

Mr Rudd said a Labor government would remain committed to Medicare and the principal of universal health care and would also "maintain recognition of and support for the private health care sector".

Commenting on the announcement, Mr Sullivan said the policy was "a good start but surely not all the story".

"Labor would do well to further spell out how people consigned to public waiting lists and overstretched community health programs will achieve more timely access and affordable care in the future," Mr Sullivan said.

"Anyone with a chronic condition today doesn't need to be told they shouldn't have it - they need to be told where they can get service they can afford."

In a statement, Mr Sullivan added that "it is vital for people currently facing disabling conditions and for those at risk of contracting them that the health system becomes more proactive and effective in delivering timely care and advice."

"Labor's emphasis on increasing the health system's attention to the prevention and better management of chronic disease is both sensible and economically logical."

Rudd stakes health pitch on prevention (The Australian, 28/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Health Australia
Australian Labor Party

Strong Catholic Health support for Labor's Medicare Gold Card (CathNews, 30/9/04)

29 Jun 2007