A Shorten Labor Government would establish a permanent Australian Health Reform Commission, the Shadow Health Minister says
In a speech to the National Press Club on Labor’s vision for health care, Labor health spokeswoman Catherine King made a commitment to the Community Pharmacy Agreements as well as the Medical Research Future Fund.
Ms King said that the establishment of such a Commission could help the Commonwealth and the States become partners, rather than combatants, in health reform and ensure that any Labor reforms to the health sector would “survive the next change in Government”.
“This Commission will be an independent, legislated body – comparable to the Productivity Commission – charged with developing and overseeing a long-term health reform agenda that transcends our election cycles,” said Ms King.
“Where the Productivity Commission has an economic and financial focus, the Australian Health Reform Commission will focus on finding ways to improve our health care system and health outcomes for all Australians.
“It will be a body explicitly charged with reducing health inequality and improving the universality of our health system.
“And it won’t just develop long-term reforms – it will hold Governments accountable for delivering on them.
“Commissioners will be appointed for at least five years – giving them the time to develop rigorous and durable solutions that cannot easily be unpicked by one side of politics or another.
“And it will report not just to the federal Health Minister but to all Governments through COAG – meaning a federal government will not be able to simply conceal or ignore inconvenient recommendations.”
The recommendations of such a Commission would be public, Ms King said.
She identified two early priorities: access to specialists through public hospital outpatient clinics; and primary health care reform.
“We need to find, trial and evaluate new models that meet the increasingly complex needs of an ageing population struggling with a massive chronic disease burden,” said Ms King.
“And then, crucially, we need to fund and roll out these models across the country.”
Health Care Homes are only a “half-hearted” attempt at primary care reform which have been a “near-total failure,” she said.
She also discussed Labor plans to maintain and strengthen the Medical Research Future Fund, and the Community Pharmacy Agreements.
“Labor will honour the 6th Community Pharmacy Agreement and lead early and inclusive negotiations towards a new agreement.
“We will work with pharmacists and the medicines sector to improve access to medicines on the PBS and the National Immunisation Program, reducing the unnecessary delays and withdrawals we’ve seen under this Government.”
The Pharmacy Guild welcomed the comments regarding a permanent Australian Health Reform Commission.
“Quality health care delivered through an efficient system is a vital priority in our society, and I welcome this commitment to a standing commission dedicated to productive beneficial reform of all parts of our health system,” said Guild national president George Tambassis.