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The Final Word – Health Minister Tanya Plibersek

26 Aug 2013

Labor is building a stronger health system

On taking office in 2007, Labor knew that radical measures were needed if we were to avoid a looming crisis in our health system.

Unless we invested billions of dollars reforming the health and hospitals system, we would be spending tens of billions in the future simply to treat illness and diseases that could have been prevented.

The health system Labor is building is one with a much greater focus on primary and preventative care, aimed at keeping people well and out of hospital.

A locally responsive system is now in place through Local Hospital Networks and Medicare Locals.

Medicare Locals look at the whole of primary health care in their regions.

They find the gaps in health services and they fill them.

They make sure our universal health system is truly universal by ensuring people who have been missing out because they’re poor, or live a long way from medical services, or find it difficult to navigate a complex range of health services, can get the care they need.

Tony Abbott would abolish Medicare Locals.

This would mean cutting $1.8 billion out of the health system, shutting down health services and sacking around 3000 frontline health workers.

This Government has also refurbished, redeveloped and built health and hospital infrastructure.  We’ve invested around $8 billion for about 1300 new projects.

Labor is building a smarter health system

Our investment in e-health, the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record system – and in telehealth – has been about building a better and smarter health system for the future.

We now have about 750,000 patients and around 5000 health organisations signed up, and about 50 million Medicare documents uploaded. And this is growing all the time.

Since 2008, the Australian Government, through the National Health and Medical Research Council, has provided $3.6 billion for ground-breaking medical research across Australia.

And just last week, the Prime Minister and I announced the new Medical Research Innovation Fund - $250 million to help our world class researchers turn their great ideas into better treatments for patients and new high tech jobs for Australia.

Labor is building a fairer health system

This includes a best-practice cancer care system. Our five-year survival rates for cancer are now up to two thirds of all people diagnosed — now the best in the world - the envy of many other countries.

Since coming to office, we have invested $4.1 billion in cancer care, including the establishment of 26 regional cancer centres across the country, meaning Australians living in regional areas can be treated closer to home.

By 2007, good dental health had declined, especially among children, so the Government launched the Grow Up Smiling scheme meaning 3.4 million kids will soon find it as easy to go to the dentist as it is to go to the doctor.

As well, we have made record investments in the public dental system to make it easier for low-income adults to see a dentist when they need treatment.

Under our Government, Medicare bulk billing rates have hit record highs of over 82 per cent -- compared to 67 per cent when Tony Abbott was health minister.

And since 2007, the Government has approved or listed $6 billion worth of new medicines on the PBS.

I doubt there is a single Australian family that has not been touched by what the Federal Government has done over the past six years.

Labor is proud to be delivering a stronger, smarter, fairer health system for every Australian.

Published: 26 Aug 2013