Monday, January 14, 2008

Extra Health Funding No Swan Song

Treasurer Wayne Swan (official photo from has given the States and Territories and extra $150 million to reduce surgical waiting lists. Today's meeting of Federal and State & Territory Treasurers and Health Ministers was a a Labor love-in. Much of the substance of the agreement had been decided before the meeting.

NSW gets $43.3 million - almost the one-third for which it asked. The Federal Government is also looking at requests that the States have more freedom to manage the funding. This will be a two-edged sword for the States: Yes, there will be greater freedom and less spent on administration to satisfy the Federal Government, but it also means that State Premiers, Treasurers and Health Ministers must be more accountable to the people they claim to represent.

$150 million will, hopefully, make some measurable impact on hospital waiting lists. But more is needed: more than a decade of costs increasing faster than inflation; tightly-controlled Medicare rebates and restricted funding of public hospitals by both States and the Federal Government meant that there needs to be significant increases in new and upgraded facilities.

The hospital system needs the following
  • more beds - in Emergency Departments and in wards
  • more doctors: Emergency Dept, surgical, physicians
  • more nurses
  • more hospital infrastructure and equipment.
  • more time for scheduled surgery.
That means taxpayers need to pay more, one way or another, if they want an improved hospital system. That means today's $150 million must not be a health Swan-song, so to speak. Would you give up part of your promised tax-cut, if it went to hospitals? (see survey at top right)