Both the federal Health Minister Sussan Ley and her Opposition counterpart Catherine King lined up at the Ballarat Base Hospital on Friday in a sign that an election is sooner rather than later, and that health is expected to be a big issue in the coming poll.
In an awkward scheduling mishap, both Ms King and Ms Ley were due to give press conferences at the same place and time, before some hasty phone calls from press secretaries averted a collision of Titanic proportions.
I'm really keen to get the My Health Record operating across Australia for every individual.- Sussan Ley
Ms King said $450 million had been cut from the Ballarat hospital in the 2014 Federal Budget.
“This minister, as she goes around the hospital, I hope takes the opportunity to say to staff why she thinks they can do their jobs with less money and with the cuts that this government has imposed,” said Ms King.
There was also a focus on efforts to reduce rates of smoking in the community. Ms King said she was heartened to see that the Coalition was ‘copying’ the Labor Party’s position on tobacco.
“We do believe that the next phase of tobacco reform, of trying to get more Australians to stop smoking, was to continue with the tobacco excise. At the time, the health minister absolutely denounced our policy. I was shocked, frankly, for a health minister of the nation to be saying that, consistent with the World Health Organisation, we shouldn’t be looking at further taxes on tobacco.
“I welcome that we now have a government that appears set to embrace Labor’s policy.”
Ms Ley was given a tour of the chemotherapy wing of the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, before introducing a Ballarat trial of the digital health proposal, My Health Record.
“Labor’s (previous e-health) system was unfortunately opt-in. Very few people did, less than 10 per cent of the Australian population chose to opt-in. It wasn’t very well sold, it wasn’t very well explained and it was just sort of left there. We’ve turned it into an opt-out. We’ve got two big trials, and what we are doing here in Ballarat.
“We have many health policies. Our 6.5 per cent capped growth funding to the states over the next three years builds reform into the future for safety, for quality, for reduced avoidable admissions, for chronic care, is absolutely putting the patient at the centre of the system.”
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