WINDFALL: Coffs Harbour’s public hospital is likely to benefit from the Rudd plan.
WINDFALL: Coffs Harbour’s public hospital is likely to benefit from the Rudd plan.

Health plan is a winner

DOCTOR Alan Tankel says Coffs Harbour is likely to gain substantially from the Prime Minister’s proposed National Health and Hospitals Network.

Dr Tankel, the acting chairman of the hospital’s Medical Staff Council, an emergency medicine specialist and the head of the Coffs Harbour Emergency Department, said it was likely hospitals like Coffs Harbour would have more money available for direct patient care under the proposed Rudd model.

“I have believed for a long time that a lot of our major problems within the health system are caused by cost shifting (between the Federal and State governments),” Dr Tankel said.

“It is an endemic problem of the Australian health care system . . .

“I have worked in four different States and there is enormous wastage and duplication.

“These proposals go a long way towards addressing that.”

Dr Tankel said he was also supportive of the proposal for local health care networks so that Coffs Harbour would no longer have to depend on decisions made in Sydney or Lismore.

“Coffs Harbour in particular and the North Coast Area Health Service in general have long been under-funded,” Dr Tankel said.

“If they use the Victorian model based on case mix, it is likely places like Coffs Harbour will get a fairer share of the resources available and local networks are a significant advantage.”

The NHHN proposes the dominant role in health care funding (about 60c in every $1) will go to the Federal Government, which proposes placing 30 per cent of the State’s GST funding ($90 billion over five years) into a new National Hospital Fund to be spent only on health and hospitals, with the hospital system run through Local Hospital Networks. Hospitals will be funded for each treatment delivered from 2012

The Federal Government will impose new national standards and reporting regime and will also fund and run all primary health care outside hospitals

The proposal will be put to the states at the next Council of Australian Governments meeting on April 11.

Cowper Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker said the policy document did not note any new money being invested in hospitals and he wad concerned the proposal would only add another layer of bureaucracy to the health system.

“There are already reports that many smaller hospitals could be unviable under this model and the pressure will be on these new bureaucrats or ‘network managers’ to scale back services at smaller facilities,” he said.

Across our region this could have an impact on hospitals such as Bellingen, Macksville and Maclean as well as the multipurpose facility in Dorrigo.”

NSW Labor Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt, the wife of Federal cabinet minister Anthony Albanese, said the reform plans hade positive aspects for regional and rural Australia but the funding details needed careful scrutiny.

“The commonwealth has made it quite clear that it is not about closing hospitals, they’ve made it very clear it is about improving health outcomes, and they have also always said they understand that regional and rural hospitals can’t operate under the same cost structure as a metropolitan hospital.”

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