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21 Jan 2019

With a Federal election due the first half of this year – and could be announced any time – the AMA is determined to keep health at the forefront of political debate.

Advocacy on policy issues is being escalated, with the AMA leadership starting 2019 committed to ensuring political decision-makers are left in no doubt as to what is needed in the health arena.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said this year’s election will be crucial for health policy, and the AMA will work tirelessly to keep it front and centre throughout the campaign.

“We will be prosecuting the case of the importance of health as a significant issue for all Australians, and we will be making sure all political parties understand just how important health is when it comes to people casting their votes,” Dr Bartone said.

“What we will be focussing on will firstly be key election health issues around general practice and the importance of primary care and being properly funded; significant issues across public hospitals, especially in terms of waiting lists; and having a sustainable system when it comes appropriately funding and resourcing Medicare to provide the equity and access that underpins the system.

“As well, we need to ensure we have a very robust and sustainable private health insurance system, but one that allows the public system to function efficiently and effectively for those who rely on it.

“But that’s just the beginning. We will be on the front foot across all the other issues concerned with health – everything from prevention to the social determinants of health.

“I think all the parties recognise health as an important issue, however, they may not fully grasp the complexities and the intricacies of what that means. Health is much more than just bulk billing rates and hospital beds. It’s much more complex than that.

“We as a collective will ensure that it is kept bubbling along in the media space; we will continue to make representations to all sides of politics, including the crossbenches; we will visit key stakeholders and all the movers and shakers to make sure they understand our position.

“And have no doubt – we will hold all sides to account. We will critique and analyse each of their policy positions and we will produce an election score card. We will show no fear or favour.”

Dr Bartone said the election provides the ground to address numerous weakness in the health system, and a time for politicians to step up. Health funding needs to be improved and positive strategies implemented.

“We’re at a crossroads,” he said.

“We’ve had multiple task forces, multiple inquiries, multiple submissions and all we’ve seen is waiting lists grow, performance not improve in the public sector, primary care funding go backwards in real terms, and private health insurance become more and more unaffordable.

“We’re approaching a perfect storm where access to health care will be challenged if we do not have a long-term approach to improving it.

“There needs to be a strategy and a vision communicated, and a road map of how to get there. We need to ensure we don’t continue to play the argy-bargy of Federal/State politics or the uncertainty of a three-year election cycle. Health is far too important to be held hostage to those factors.

“We have one of the best healthcare systems in the world and we have achieved outcomes second to none. But all those hard-won gains are at risk and the system is at risk of going backwards.

“That’s why this election is so important.”



Published: 21 Jan 2019