Article by the Hon Rebecca White MP, Shadow Minister for Health and Labor Member for Lyons
There is lots of talk about the pressure on the budget and the burden on the health system. However the real pressure will be that put on Tasmanian families who will need to find more money to afford the services they need to stay healthy.
The Federal Government has announced their intention to charge a $7 GP co-payment and a $5 co-payment on prescriptions, undermining the concept of universal health care.
Last week the Salvation Army released a report which found that of those surveyed 24% already couldn’t afford medical treatment when needed and 34% were unable to buy medicines as prescribed by a doctor. The $7 fee might just tip more of them over into avoiding health care altogether.
In addition to this charge the State Government has not ruled out charging a co-payment each time someone presents to the emergency department.
We know that the state’s health budget is facing a $27m reduction under the Liberal Government due to the Federal budget and that $1.7b will be cut from health over the next four years. This will see the reduction or cessation of a number of services and programs from preventative health initiatives like Move Well Eat Well, through to the dental grants program.
The Minister has failed to rule out the Liberal Government will not close regional hospitals including Beaconsfield, St Marys, New Norfolk and Smithton. This is extremely concerning as these centres provide important health care to regional communities and any changes to the services they offer will disadvantage regional Tasmanians greatly.
Labor will continue to seek information from the Liberal Government about how they will ensure Tasmanians are not worse off when they hand down their budget in August. There’s no doubt the Federal budget has placed additional pressure on the Tasmanian health system but Tasmanian families should not be fooled into thinking that these savage hits on health are the only option available to the Liberals.