Dumbing down health a recipe for long-term damage to Australia’s healthcare system

It seems like every day we hear from politicians and healthcare administrators about the need to have a more ‘sustainable and affordable’ healthcare system. Every day we hear about the growing numbers of people that need healthcare; about the ever-growing waiting lists for elective surgery and the impact that an ageing population will have on our healthcare system into the future. And every day, healthcare providers seek to implement new ‘measures’ to reduce the ‘costs’ to the Australian taxpayer.

There are some very real issues facing Australia’s healthcare system but to maintain the mantra of ‘sustainability and affordability’ will fundamentally see our healthcare system collapse as patients’ actual healthcare needs aren’t met at the time they present and recidivism increases.

State governments continue to play political games with healthcare while holding on to dangerous attitudes of cutting costs, regardless of how health outcomes are impacted. And worst of all, in all the chest-beating about cutting costs, nothing is said about whether there have been improved healthcare outcomes for Victorians.

The Napthine Government regularly trots out this mantra of ‘sustainable and affordable healthcare’ and claims they are improving healthcare outcomes by funding ‘more beds’ in hospitals and the ‘front line’ of the health sector. Too often state governments only see the nurses and the doctors as being the entirety of the health sector with little to no attention paid to those that aren’t in the front line – the pharmacists, the psychologists, the dietitians, and the scientists.

But we all know that ‘sustainable and affordable healthcare’ is loaded language which simply means in practical terms budget cuts, redundancies, more outsourcing, more privatisation and dumbing down qualifications.  We see it every day – replacing scientists with less qualified workers, merging and contracting out pharmacies and replacing psychologists with less qualified counsellors.

Worst of all, fewer health workers to do more and more work, while hospital executives behave indifferently to the injuries arising from the stress and anxiety that increased workloads cause.

Every day we see how ‘sustainable and affordable healthcare’ is actually leading to a dumbing down in health; and while it might be okay today or tomorrow, what happens when the system is loaded with people that just don’t have the qualifications? What happens to patients’ health care outcomes when those charged with providing the healthcare don’t have the qualifications to know how best to provide the care needed?

Governments and healthcare administrators must rush back from the cliff if we are to have a truly sustainable and affordable healthcare system. Making sure that patients have access to the best quality healthcare is vital to reducing the risks of patients returning shortly after treatment.

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