Calls for Gonski-Style Review of Health System
19 February 2015 at 11:04 am
One of Australia’s largest healthcare organisations has called for an independent Gonski-style review of the country’s health system.
St Vincent’s Health Australia, which operates both St Vincent’s Public Hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne, along with a range of other public and private hospitals and aged care facilities, said that the debate around healthcare had become too polarised.
St Vincent’s Health Australia CEO, Toby Hall, said an evaluation of the way the health system is funded and services are delivered should be carried out by the Productivity Commission or led by eminent and respected Australians in a similar fashion to the Gonski review into funding of education in Australia.
“There’s always been a tug-of-war over health but I think in recent months we’ve entered new and concerning territory,” Hall said.
“Over this period we’ve seen two separate changes to the Government’s stance on GP co-payments and now the emergence of opposing views within its own ranks. Added to that the heat and argument within the health sector itself, and I can’t see any future major policies – certainly in the near-term – receiving the broad acceptance and buy-in that is necessary.
“We believe it’s time for the Government to draw a line under recent events, go back to the drawing board on health policy, wipe it clean, and start again.”
Hall said there was currently no clarity on the goals for Australia’s health system and the public was losing confidence in Canberra’s long-term vision for healthcare.
“By bringing on an independent Productivity Commission inquiry, or by enlisting a group of eminent and respected Australians to conduct a ‘Gonski-style’ review, the government would be able to truly reset the debate, allow heads to cool, and remove – for the time being at least – the sting of politics,” he said.
“The Bennett Commission in 2009 provided us with a substantial foundation. It particularly provided a way forward in terms of modeling of health services. But where I think we need more work – and where the polarisation in today’s debate seems to be at its greatest – is around health funding.
“There is clear pressure on health funding at State and Federal levels. The private health insurance industry is running out of control. Clearly we’re in unsustainable territory.
“We need to answer the question: ‘How do we pay for it?’.
“We believe everything should be on the table for the review’s consideration – including asking Australians, who have the capacity, to pay more for their health care.”
According to St Vincent’s Health Australia, any evaluation must:
- Move from debating unsustainable cost rises and instead focus on cost effective ways to maximise the health outcomes of the community, particularly health outcomes of national focus, such as rates of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
- Create a more cohesive and less fragmented governance and accountability framework, such as the creation of a single tier of government-funder for publicly funded health services.
- Remove the inefficiencies and barriers associated with the divided health care responsibilities of our State and Federal governments.
- Realign the healthcare portfolio structure with population health management and outcomes-based incentives coordinated across prevention to primary and acute care, community care and aged care.
Hall said the evaluation should be considered in the context of the White Papers on the Reform of the Federation and Reform of Australia’s Tax System.
“The Government has the opportunity to turn what has been a very difficult few months in health into something positive,” he said.
“I think the sector, and the public, would congratulate them on making such a move.”