The coalition wants the Rudd government to take over the nation’s public hospitals immediately, but NSW and Victoria have indicated they’ll fight any such power grab by the Commonwealth.
‘Before the 2007 election, Labor promised to seek control of hospitals if the states and territories hadn’t begun implementing a national reform plan by midway through this year.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Health Minister Nicola Roxon say that’s still on the cards, but they’ll “carefully consider” the results of a reform report they received on Tuesday before making any decision.
However, opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton says Labor hasn’t fixed the hospital system as promised and time’s up. “We call on the prime minister today to fulfil his election promise to take public hospitals over,” Mr Dutton said in Canberra.
“That’s what he promised … and that’s what Mr Rudd needs to do today.” But Mr Dutton refused to say whether he thought that was good policy, or whether the coalition would even support the move.
The opposition was open to the idea, he said, but would release its policy before next year’s election.
The government received the final report of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission (NHHRC) on Tuesday.
Its interim report, released publicly in February, recommended the federal government assume total responsibility for primary care – that is health care provided outside the hospital system.
But it stopped short of recommending similar action for the hospital system, only raising it as an option. Labor has hinted recently it would prefer to work with the states and territories rather than wrest control of hospitals, but Mr Rudd says a takeover is still possible.
“I was absolutely clear cut about that possibility at the last election,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Brisbane.
“We intend to roll up our sleeves, work through the recommendations of the report, work through it with the states and territories and get on with implementing long-term reform.”
Ms Roxon denied the government had broken an election promise by not fixing or taking over hospitals by July.
“We’ve indicated that we will consider this issue in the middle of this year, it is the middle of the year and we are considering (it),” she said.
The final NHHRC report contained more than 100 recommendations and the public expected the government to deliberate and then release it publicly for discussion, she said.
“Some of these options are reforms that are bigger than anything we have seen since Medicare,” she said.
“I think every health minister across the country would openly say ‘Of course further improvements can be made’.”
That may be so, but NSW and Victoria don’t believe handing power to the commonwealth is the solution. “
The level of government which is best placed to run the hospital system is the state government and it has always been my view,” Victorian Premier John Brumby told reporters.
“I think the last thing you would want is a faceless bureaucracy in Canberra running the health system here in Victoria.” NSW’s health minister agrees.
“The reality is it’s important hospitals make more decisions and doctors and nurses make more decisions in their own local arenas,” John Della Bosca says.”The government says it will release the NHHRC report publicly “soon”.