Patients are avoiding or delaying filling a prescription because of cost, says MP Emma McBride

Labor has slammed the government’s health budget, with Central Coast MP Emma McBride (Dobell, New South Wales) criticising healthcare costs for patients in a recent House of Representatives sitting.

Ms McBride works as Deputy Director of Pharmacy for Central Coast Local Health District, and prior to this role was Chief Pharmacist at Wyong Hospital from 2008-16.

“As a hospital pharmacist who worked at my local hospital in Wyong for 10 years before I was elected and who worked in mental health units for most of my life Labor has a strong tradition in health and hospitals,” said Ms McBride in her speech.

“Anyone who has sat in an emergency department knows that hospitals need more funding… Resources are scarce.

“Everybody in our community, in our health system, knows that and everybody in our community and our health system cares about it except, it seems, this Liberal government, that wants to cut $2.8 billion from Australia’s public hospitals in the next seven years,” said Ms McBride.

“People are now out of pocket by $38 every time they visit a GP. People are now out of pocket by $88 every time they see a specialist … That is not affordable for many, and it is causing people to delay or cancel specialist appointments and to delay or avoid filling a prescription.

“In fact, on the Central Coast of New South Wales each year, about 12,000 people skip a GP appointment, and about 21,000 people skip a specialist’s appointment,” she says.

“As a pharmacist, I am especially concerned about the almost 21,000 people on the Central Coast who avoid or delay filling a prescription because of cost, risking their health and leading to greater long-term costs to our health system.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt stands by his 2018-19 Budget, which he described on its release as founded in an “absolute rock-solid commitment to Medicare”.

In the Budget Minister Hunt announced $4.8 billion investment into Medicare and $2.4 billion for new medicines, including $1 billion provision towards listing all new recommended medicines.

He also promised a $130.2 billion investment in public hospitals, an increase of $30.2 billion, from 2020–21 to 2024–25.

“The Turnbull Government is delivering a strong economy which means we can guarantee the essentials that Australians rely on like Medicare, hospitals, lifesaving medicines and aged care,” said Minister Hunt.

The Pharmacy Guild welcomed measures in the 2018-19 Budget announced earlier this month, including changes in the payment arrangements for high-cost medicines, a boost for the rural health workforce with $83 million over five years, and $28 million over five years to upgrade the e-prescribing software system used by clinicians to prescribe medicines.