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Waiting game

More than a week after the federal election and voters still don't know who their next government will be.

The nursing profession has been silent as it waits with the rest of the country to find out which party will form government.

At the time of going to print, counting was still taking place and negotiations between the independent MPs and Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott entered its first stages.

While committing to working with whichever party elected, nursing groups clearly favored a Labor government.

In a scorecard released prior to the polls, the Royal College of Nursing Australia rated Labor, the Coalition and the Greens on the level of support given to 25 key election priorities.

Labor fared the best, giving “some support” to nine priorities and “support” to one – establishing a practice framework for unlicensed health workers.

The Coalition was found to give some support to four, and the Greens only three.

The hung parliament could deliver a stronger focus on regional and rural health, according to some groups.

With the balance of power now in the hands of independents, three from rural seats, there is a “unique opportunity” for rural Australia to have a real voice in how health is provided, said Dr Nola Maxfield, Rural Doctors Association of Australia president.

“Now is the time to move to address the rural health crisis. We hope the independents will step up to the plate on rural health,” she said.

“For the independent MPs considering which side of politics they will support in the new parliament, a key consideration clearly needs to be which party will address the concerns rural Australians have about access to health services.

“The party that can tick the boxes that will ensure we build a well-trained health workforce in rural Australia must be supported.”

Health care should be at the centre of negotiations over how to form a stable government, said Prue Power, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association executive director.

“The record support for the Greens can, at least in part, be attributed to the failure of both major parties to deliver satisfactory policies on these key health issues which affect the lives of millions of Australians every day and yet were virtually ignored by the major parties during the campaign,” Power said.

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