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Doctors urge change

Tuesday, 7th April, 2009

A group of doctors has called on the Commonwealth to put more money into the Greater Western Area Health Service (GWAHS) or take it over. The seven doctors, who all work for the GWAHS, backed the take-over proposal during a meeting with a policy adviser to Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon on Friday. An immediate take over of the nation's hospitals by the Federal Government is one of the options contained in a preliminary report by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission.

Dr Flecknoe-Brown, who attended Friday's meeting, said the policy adviser, Dr Ruth Kearon, was made aware of the major challenges facing the GWAHS. This included the disparity in federal health funding per capita between the city and the bush. The more remote the town, the greater the disparity. "People in regional areas get less Medicare-funded services," Dr Flecknoe-Brown said. "We get less than half of the Commonwealth revenue that other areas depend on for administration."

He said that while government and health authorities were aware of it, "the actual magnitude was unknown". The doctors also told the adviser that the Federal Government had to address the frail-aged issue affecting hospitals. Dr Flecknoe-Brown said that the GWAHS was spending $60 to $70 million a year on caring for the frail-aged in hospitals. "If every frail-aged person could be cared for in the right place ... that would have wiped out the budget deficit. "There was a whole lot of things on the income side that need addressing.

"Otherwise to live within our means we will have to cut back on services which is unacceptable." The doctors believe a Federally-funded health service was the best solution to the problems facing the GWAHS. "Almost all of us agree that was the best option," Dr Flecknoe-Brown said. He said that Dr Kearon was genuinely surprised by the data that was gathered and presented by Dr Ruth Arnold, chairman of the Orange Medical Staff Council. "There is no doubt we brought the Commonwealth a whole lot of information they weren't aware of and increased the level of interest significantly."

He said "time will tell" whether their concerns would be acted on. "I think Dr Kearon will be watching carefully."

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