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18 Jan 2017

Incoming Health Minster Greg Hunt has praised the AMA and declared he wants to be a minister “for GPs”.

In his first public comments after being appointed to the key portfolio, Mr Hunt told reporters he had already spoken with AMA President Dr Michael Gannon and described the AMA as a “magnificent organisation”.

The Victorian MP, whose mother was a nurse and is married to a nurse, praised “the magnificent dedicated, professionals of our Australian health system”, and indicated a change in the Government’s approach following his discussion with Dr Gannon.

“One of the things that Michael Gannon said is he feels GPs may have been undervalued in Australia. I want to re-establish that value, their role, their importance, their trust in the community,” he said.

The Government has been accused of undermining primary care through a series of policies and cutbacks that have put GPs under severe financial strain, including a seven-year freeze of Medicare rebates and demands to adopt the My Health Record e-health system and the Health Care Home model of care with minimal additional support.

Mr Hunt, who is to be sworn in next week, was keen to reaffirm the Coalition’s commitment to universal health care after Medicare fears came close to losing it last year’s Federal election.

“Medicare is the fundamental underpinning of Australia's health system,” the incoming Minister said. “I have, and we have, a rock solid commitment to the future of Medicare. It is simply indispensable and fundamental to our health care system.”

Mr Hunt refused to be drawn on specific policy issues until after he was sworn in, instead outlining his vision.

“I am setting out to listen and to hear, not just to listen but to hear and to learn, over the coming days and weeks and progressively we will set out more policy directions,” he said.

“But the broad vision is of the best health care system in the world. We are already outstanding. But we can be even better.”

Adrian Rollins

Published: 18 Jan 2017