Healthcare under a Morrison Government

The election has been run and Australians have entrusted the leadership of our nation for the next 3 years to Scott Morrison and the Coalition. We’re not sure if Mr Morrison will still be the Prime Minister by the time we get to the next election but the reality is he’ll be the man in the big chair from the start of this Government.

So, what has Scott Morrison been saying about what a Coalition government will do? Frankly they have not said much at all.

The Coalition was able to spend an entire election campaign without outlining their plans or what they’ll cost Australia and Australians. We already know that healthcare costs will continue to rise as the freeze on pathology testing continues. Within days of the election having been run we are getting reports from GPs that they will have to cease offering home visits and will have to review the fees they charge which will likely result in higher gap fees and people putting off seeing their GP.

Much was made about Labor’s plan to ease the cost to people who have been diagnosed with cancer, which was only belatedly matched by the Coalition. It’s now time to see if the Coalition will keep its promise to cancer patients or will they conveniently forget about the commitment.

We know that in July workers across a range of industries, especially in hospitality, will have their penalty rates cut again. We were told these cuts were necessary to increase employment but there have been no increases in shifts for people or an increase in employment opportunities as was promised.

Any chance of real action on the climate emergency has been dealt a frightening blow, given that Scott Morrison has long been a climate-change denier. It’s one of the reasons that Morrison replaced Turnbull as Prime Minister last year. Despite the evidence and growing community demand for action we aren’t expecting him to reach an epiphany about the need to transition to renewable energy or the need to develop a framework to deal with the impact climate change is already having on our health and well-being.

But then it’s hard to know what the Coalition will be doing with Morrison in charge since they spent the entire election campaign running down the opposition rather than outlining their vision for the nation. We saw some announcements here and there like the one meeting the commitment Labor made about easing the cost of cancer treatment but they were few and far between.

The election result is extremely disappointing. But we will continue to fight for our rights at work and defend existing employment benefits. We know if we don’t continue to fight for better wages and conditions ultra-conservative voices in this Government and its cheer squad corporate sector will be looking to drive our wages and conditions down.

Victorian State Budget
The Victorian state budget was handed down on Monday. There wasn’t the usual fanfare around the budget, mostly because a federal election was happening, but we were pleased to see the increase in funding for health.

While there is additional funding towards public hospital infrastructure, there is again a failure to address the staffing crisis across all of our disciplines. Despite independent research by the government that shows there is a crisis in medical science, there was no dedicated funding to ensure this critical problem is addressed. There are growing problems in mental health as there are not enough psychologists. There is more stress in our hospital pharmacies as the work piles up but the number of pharmacists doesn’t increase.

The Victorian health system is being unnecessarily put under strain because state governments of all persuasions fail to address the crisis in staffing. It’s not possible, as suggested by the Andrews Government, to build a healthcare system that people can rely on when they fail to address key staffing crises. Understaffing and high workloads significantly impacts on the ability of our system to safely treat patients. The Government must not ignore the vital and essential roles of allied health professionals and scientists to the delivery of world-class healthcare. There is no doubt that following significant growth in the doctors and nurses workforces over the past decade the remaining crisis in staffing are all in our disciplines.

For mental health there is mixed news. Unfortunately there is no additional funding to increase the mental health workforce and in particular increase the number of practicing psychologists. This is despite reporting of how the public mental health system is breaking down. However there has been additional funding to increase the number of services available across Victoria and the number of dedicated beds. While the mental health care budget for this year may not necessarily be as impressive as last year’s budget, the government has indicated that this is due to the Royal Commission into mental health and acknowledges there will be recommendations that will need to be acted upon. In fact the Andrews government has promised to act on all the recommendations from the Royal Commission.

Despite the disappointing election result and a disappointing state budget, I want to give the same assurance the Union will continue to fight for our rights at work, for better conditions and for increases in staff across all of our disciplines.

In the meantime make sure you get your colleagues to join – the more members we have the more powerful our collective voice will be.

Paul Elliott

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