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Sussan Ley

New minister a chance for policy rethink

Peak health bodies have expressed hope that the appointment of Sussan Ley as federal health minister will signal an opportunity to make headway against what they say are potentially negative government policy initiatives.

The promotion of Ley to the prominent portfolio was made official in late December as part of prime minister Tony Abbott’s pre-Christmas cabinet reshuffle triggered by the resignation of assistant treasurer Arthur Sinodinos.

ANMF federal secretary Lee Thomas said she would seek meetings with Ley “to discuss several crucial issues negatively impacting on the Australian health care system – these include the Government’s proposed $5 out of pocket fee for a GP visit and reductions in public health funding”.

“The ANMF looks forward to working with the new Minister on trying to negotiate solutions to the mounting challenges facing nurses and midwives and the people they care for as a result of the government’s recent policy decisions.

“The health portfolio is big and getting bigger, so responsibility in government is paramount, but never at the expense of patient care or safety.

“As Federal Secretary, I am keen to establish a working relationship with Minister Ley so that together, we can tackle the increasing issues in health.”

In a similar statement, issued before Christmas, the Consumers Health Forum laid out its own health policy wish list for 2015 – the number one request being for the government do dump its GP co-payment plans entirely.

“Regardless of whether it’s a rebate cut, a rebate freeze or a consumer co-payment, all players in

the health sector recognise that a financial barrier at the point of service for primary health care will have disastrous outcomes,” CHF chief executive officer Adam Stankevicius said. “It should be thrown out with the present wrapping paper.”

Stankevicius also called for broader stakeholder involvement in negotiations for the next community pharmacy agreement between the government and pharmacy industry.

Ley said she looked forward to building on the work of her predecessor Peter Dutton who has replaced Scott Morrison as minister for immigration and border protection.

Prior to her latest role, Ley had been assistant education minister and had previously held various shadow ministry positions.

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