After nearly 8 weeks of this federal election campaign, it comes down to the final pitches from the major parties about who can best lead Australia as voters head to polling centres on 2 July. And while it has been the longest campaign in a very long time, and perhaps the most mind-numbing, this election is extremely important for the kind of health system we want and the sort of future we create for ourselves.
Since coming to power in 2013, the Abbott-Turnbull Government has set about wrecking the public healthcare system. In their final budget we saw the Coalition government slash millions, totaling around $50 billion in Liberal cuts, out of healthcare and hospitals funding.. And as the Turnbull Government maintains and extends the cuts to healthcare and hospitals, it’s important to remember that each time the government cuts funding, it means fewer staff to do more work adding to the pressure you feel at work.
Each funding cut means that our public health services are under more pressure to keep delivering world-class healthcare with much less. And as the pressure grows, public health services are being forced to make tough choices about how far they’re prepared to let our healthcare system slide.
You know like I do that the tough choices public health services are making are fundamentally about the future of our professions and the future of our work and careers. We know that when the pressure is really on public health services will target our jobs, even though we are part of making a world-class healthcare system.
Everyone working in healthcare is essential to giving patients the very best care possible so they can return to good health. By picking and choosing which clinical services will be cut, public health services are effectively determining the level of care patients receives – including ourselves.
The Turnbull Government has also attempted to be tough on mental health and suicide prevention but has completely failed to outline policies or a strategy; or how they would tackle these urgent issues. But here too the truth is the Turnbull Government slashed millions of dollars from mental health and family violence services – even refusing to commit to a national suicide prevention scheme.
It’s simply not good enough for Malcolm Turnbull and Sussan Ley to continue, even now in the week before the election, to make unsupported claims about how they’re improving our healthcare system to make it sustainable or that there are no plans to privatize Medicare. This is particularly galling when the reality is that since coming to power, the Abbott-Turnbull Government have slashed billions from hospitals, put a freeze on Medicare rebates (effectively introducing co-payments by stealth), increased the cost of medicines (including co-payments for some PBS-listed medicines) and increased the cost of getting pathology tests and diagnostic imaging tests done.
The reality is that our universal healthcare system is sustainable and there is no valid reason to pursue drastic and completely unnecessary measures that make accessing healthcare more expensive.
For most people, issues like healthcare are among the top 3 issues when they vote. But it is increasingly clear that the Coalition puts little value on having a healthy nation. The Abbott-Turnbull Government has also made drastic cuts to higher education, research and to the CSIRO. There are measures to further cut social services and introduce so-called internships for young people that pay $4 per hour. Not enough has been said this election about climate change and its growing impacts on healthcare; including the complexity of patient cases. And the National Broadband Network remains inadequate and already considered antiquated technology; not to mention cost billions to fix.
Working in healthcare you know how much harder it has become to deliver the quality healthcare we know can be delivered because of continuous cuts to health. And you know what it’s like to feel the pressure from workloads explode with greater expectations that you’ll do more unpaid work.
An Abbott-Turnbull Government will continue to attack healthcare and health services will respond with making further cuts. And you know what that means – it means job cuts in areas like pathology and mental health services and with fewer staff and increasing workloads the risk of errors increases.
It’s for these reasons and many more that we strongly recommend that you put the Liberals last in both the House of Representatives and the Senate this election when you cast your vote on 2 July.
Vote to protect our universal healthcare system and our professions.
— Paul Elliott