The Western NSW Primary Health Network (WNSW PHN) has welcomed the commitment of the Australian Government’s investment of $1.8 billion to provide Australians with timely and affordable access to high quality health care as announced in the annual budget by Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, on Tuesday (May 11).
WNSW PHN Acting CEO, Robert Strickland, says the major investment is good news for better health outcomes for the region’s residents.
“The funding announced for new Medicare Benefits Scheme items as well as the expansion of telehealth and extended operation of GP-led Respiratory Clinics is all very good news for people’s health in our region,” Mr Strickland said.
“Of particular importance to our region is the $65.8 million that has been announced for the improvements to bulk billing rates in Australia’s rural, regional and remote communities by increasing the Rural Bulk Billing Incentive payment for doctors,” he said.
“This is a really important step in improving the viability of our region’s General Practices and, hopefully, attracting even more doctors to come and to stay in our region. There is still more to be done for the 43 small towns that we have identified as having fragile general practice and primary health services and we will continue to talk to stakeholders and the Commonwealth about what more is needed”.
“I also applaud the Commonwealth Government for its $2.3 billion commitment to the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, which will be vital to supporting and expanding the excellent ongoing work that has been occurring in this area, which is critical to the wellbeing of our residents.”
“The funding for suicide aftercare and postvention is particularly welcome and will see services focussed on vulnerable people who have attempted suicide and are subsequently discharged from hospitals right across Australia. Additional funding for suicide prevention support networks will be essential for preventing suicides and I particularly welcome targeted funding for the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector.”
“The funding announced for After Hours service delivery is also going to prove vitally important for Western NSW, as will the funds committed to improving primary care for our seniors, including those in the region’s residential aged care facilities,” Mr Strickland said.
He added, “While this budget has not been able to address all areas of health concerns for our region, I’m very happy that the budget will be enabling our community to have better access and better health outcomes for our residents.”
The Government’s primary health care investments across Australia include:
- $711.7 million to add new items to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), including genetic testing, gynaecological procedures, paediatric and rare cancer treatment, treatment for major depression, and orthopaedics
- $204.6 million to extend telehealth measures, providing unprecedented access to health care services, including general practitioners (GPs), specialists, nursing, midwifery, allied health, and mental health services, until 31 December 2021
- $87.5 million for the extended operation of up to 150 GPRCs through to 31 December 2021
- $65.8 million to improve bulk billing rates in rural, regional, and remote communities by increasing the Rural Bulk Billing Incentive payment for doctors
- $71.9 million for the Primary Health Network’s (PHN) After Hours for service delivery and improving integration in more communities
- $365.7 million to improve access to primary care for senior Australians, including those living in residential aged care
- $58.8 million to grow the mental health workforce and support GPs in primary mental health care
- $107.9 million to help states and territories provide approximately 180,000 adult concession cardholders with public dental services through a new National Partnership Agreement (NPA) for Public Dental Services for Adults
- $7.3 million to improve access to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS), including allowing benefits for children under 2 years old
- $37 million to modernise diagnostic imaging – replacing outdated equipment, improving the patient journey, and continuing support for private radiology oncology providers
- $50.7 million to continue to develop an ICT system that enables a voluntary patient registration (VPR) initiative, to be known as MyGP, which will improve health outcomes and lift the quality of services delivered to Australian patients through continuity of care
- $5.5 million to expand the National Health Call Centre Network, Healthdirect, to include Victoria, and
- $5.7 million to modernise the Hearing Services Online (HSO) portal, helping deliver care to Australians with hearing loss.