‘This is the debate Australia has to have’

Media Release: A leader in Australia’s health and aged care sector has welcomed Treasurer Joe Hockey’s call for a ‘mature debate’ about the quality of health care and aged care, made at the weekend G20 Finance Ministers Forum.

HammondCare Chief Executive and member of the Ministerial Dementia Advisory Group Dr Stephen Judd says this is a debate Australia has to have and it will touch all Australians.

“This is a debate well beyond increasing the retirement age or even increasing the GST. It’s not true that there’s not enough money to pay for Australia’s future health and aged care needs – it’s just that it’s in other people’s pockets.”

Health needs major re-alignment

Dr Judd said, “What we are seeing in Australia is not a looming ‘tsunami’ but a triumph of public health. More and more people are living longer and longer – thanks to better medical technology and medicines, but Australia’s health system is crying out for a major re-alignment.”

Dr Judd said this long overdue debate could begin by tackling three costly issues: “First, aspects of the PBS can now be considered ‘middle class welfare’. For every $2 spent by the Australian Government on medical benefits, there’s $1 spent on pharmaceutical benefits. People who can afford to should be paying more for their medicines. This debate could consider extending the GST to pharmaceuticals.

“Second, acute hospitals should be for cure. Doctors need to confront the fact that for many patients, further treatment is futile. Australia spends enormous amounts of money on futile tests and treatment on patients who are dying, when palliative care is a more dignified and less expensive way forward.

“Third, acute hospitals should be just for acute services. At the moment there are rehab units in acute hospitals full of older people getting very little benefit for languishing there. Restorative and rehabilitation services need to be moved out of acute settings into less expensive and appropriate ones.”

Mature debate for hard questions

Dr Judd acknowledged that there are very many hard questions like these to confront.

“However Australia must start talking about them and governments will need to make some tough calls in the months and years to come. I welcome Joe Hockey’s call for a mature debate.

"His calls for an end to ‘the age entitlement’ will also very much need to apply to Australia’s health and aged care sector.”