ACEM statement on 2017-2018 Australian Federal Budget

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine offers the following comments on some of the specific measures in the 2017-2018 Australian Federal Budget.

Quotes attributable to ACEM President Professor Tony Lawler:

Investment of $2.8 billion to public hospitals

In recent times, funding of our State hospitals has been the target of cuts. Additional funding in this year’s budget is making up lost ground.

However, while the increase of $2.8 billion in assistance to the States for public hospitals is welcome, it is incumbent on the States and Territories to ensure that funding increase goes to providing improved, safer and more sustainable high quality public hospital services — including addressing access block in Australia’s public hospital emergency departments (EDs).

Unwinding Medicare rebate freeze

We congratulate our healthcare colleagues like GPs who have been advocating on this issue for some time and support their work, because we recognise the important role primary care plays in disease prevention and management of chronic disease.

But this measure will not reduce ED demand. Our research has shown that so-called 'GP-type' patients currently represent only a small proportion of an ED’s workload. Suggestions that significant proportions of patients with conditions that could be managed by a GP are inappropriately attending EDs and contributing to ED overcrowding, are erroneous.

ACEM urges both the Government and the Opposition to address the real cause of the problem — long term hospital funding and hospital bed numbers. Further, the underlying issues of an ageing population and constrained resources should be addressed.

It is preferable that any savings measures for this unfreeze do not impact on the suitability of the healthcare system or on patients, and savings must be evidence-based.

Medical Research Future Fund

The injection of funds into health and medical research are welcomed.

Research provides the evidence base for clinical practice in emergency medicine, and health care more generally, particularly in terms of effective and cost-effective treatments.

More emergency physicians and nurses are involved in research and trainees are mandated to conduct research projects in order to fulfil training requirements.

Preventative healthcare — mental health

ACEM survey data shows mental health patients are commonly stuck in EDs for days due to lack of hospital beds — adding more trauma at an already difficult time.

So preventative measures are welcomed, and prioritise the health and safety of the community.

EDs play a key role in the initial assessment and management of patients presenting with acute mental health problems and behavioural disturbance.

Where possible, EDs should contribute to the ongoing assessment of efficacy and quality improvement of any preventable program and/or mental health facilities and, as appropriate and feasible, EDs should also contribute to state and national research into mental health.

My Health Record — continuation and expansion

Providing quality care in a modern health system relies on accessible and accurate clinical and patient information. The continued support of My Health Record, with centralised clinical information and appropriate protections in place, ensures that health practitioners and patients can work together to allow for safe, effective and inclusive care.

Other measures

Other measures included in the budget send positive signals on health policy. The Government’s decision to withhold family tax benefits from parents who don’t vaccinate their children recognises the importance of vaccination in protecting the health of children and the community.

Similarly, increased taxes on cigars and roll-your-own tobacco strengthens the disincentives for risky health decisions.

Andre Khoury
ACEM Media Contact
03 8679 8813
0498 068 023
[email protected]