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Government must continue momentum for health reform

Nurses seek confirmation that a carefully considered health reform plan remains a key priority of government.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon says she will press on with Labor's program of reforming the health system.

Roxon said she was pleased and honoured to retain the health portfolio and to continue leading the government's health reform agenda.

"Following a very busy first term introducing health reform, I now look forward to implementing changes that will deliver better health and hospital services across the country," she said.

"In particular, I will focus on the better delivery of health services through improved GP clinics, modernised hospitals, an expanded medical and nursing workforce, better after hours services and unleashing the benefits of e-health and telemedicine."

Roxon said the health team would continue to oversee delivery of vital health services to the community.

There will be a strong focus on implementing agreed reforms, ensuring their benefits to the whole country, as well as shaping an important second term health agenda in aged care, mental health and dental services, she said.

"Our vast system has many strengths, the best of all being the people that work in it. I have enormous confidence that together we now have a rare opportunity to really make a difference to improve health outcomes for all Australians," she said.

While encouraged by many of the 2010-11 federal budget announcements, the RCNA said the government needed to now demonstrate that reform requires:

• a patient-centred, health promotion and preventative approach to health care that capitalises on the central role of nursing across the health system
• formalised means for nurses to influence the design and effectively participate in the governance of Local Hospital Networks and primary health care organisations
• making better use of the skills of all health professionals and reducing dependence on general practice
• a commitment to maximising the expertise of the nursing profession, which, as the predominant health profession across the health sector, is currently significantly underutilised
• an injection of much needed funds to enhance and expand the community and primary health care roles of nurses that sit outside of general practice
• the development of a national nursing and midwifery workforce strategy to ensure sustainable nursing and midwifery workforces into the future.
Debra Cerasa, RCNA CEO, said assurances were also sought that the government would build its primary health care organisations (PHCO) to genuinely support multidisciplinary care.

“RCNA wants to see PHCOs developed that can deliver independent multidisciplinary health care by demonstrating a real departure from medico-centric models of health care funding and delivery,” she said.

“Our dependence on general practice must be reduced if greater efficiencies within the community and primary health care sector are to be realised. Placing general practice at the centre of primary health care reform is counterintuitive as it will perpetuate current access inequities and maintain existing barriers to nursing, midwifery and other health professional expertise.”

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