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Federal Budget 2016: The sector reacts

Peak bodies often use the term mixed bag when discussing how healthcare fares in each year’s federal Budget, and the 2016–17 showing is no different. Below, Nursing Review gets the lay of the land from some of the sector's leaders and experts.


Australian College of Nursing said the announcements included some promising new initiatives in an otherwise conservative Budget package.

The college stated that while the announcements are encouraging, they fall well short of meeting the need for continued health systems reform including new approaches to funding, innovative models of care and greater utilisation of the health workforce to improve service reach and impact.

The continuation of the Rural Health General Practice Grants Program was welcomed by ACN, as was the continued funding of the Home and Community Care Services in Western Australia, with a Commonwealth contribution of $392.9 million.

ACN chief executive adjunct professor Kylie Ward is cautiously optimistic about the proposed Budget and said while it is a promising initiative in the implementation of integrated health reform, she is eager to see more detail.


The Heart Foundation applauded the government for maintaining support of a significant increase in tobacco tax.

Heart Foundation Tobacco Control spokesperson Maurice Swanson said the legislation introduced in 2014 was a measure that would continue to save lives.

“Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease, with around 15,000 people dying each year because they smoke,” Swanson said. “There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke, with even a non-smoker’s risk of heart disease increased by up to 25-30% if they are exposed to second-hand smoke.


The Stroke Foundation said the government has taken positive steps to reduce the nation’s stroke risk in the 2016 Federal Budget.

Stroke Foundation chief executive Sharon McGowan said the continuation of the tobacco tax and the health star rating system would help Australians make better choices when it came to their health.

McGowan said while the Foundation welcomes the positive steps the Government is taking to improve the state of chronic disease, much more can and must be done.

“A national integrated health check program would help people at risk avoid having a potentially deadly stroke – we need the Government’s support to deliver this lifesaving initiative,” she said.


Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) chief executive Alison Verhoeven said:

The confirmation of an additional $2.9 billion over three years in public hospital funding is welcome, though this returns less than half of the expected funding that was initially removed by the Government in the 2014 Budget.

The AHHA strongly supports the ongoing commitment to activity-based funding, particularly given the National Health Performance Authority’s recent report has shown such funding improves hospital efficiency. However, the Government must continue to plan not just for the next electoral cycle, but with a strategic vision for the future of Australian health.

Action is needed to align the interfaces between health, aged care and disability services to help coordinate patient care. The limited arrangements proposed for Health Care Homes will only partly serve to address this.

Primary Health Networks require appropriate and long-term funding to carry out their core functions, with flexible funding to meet community needs. Under-resourcing organisations with ever-increasing responsibilities will compromise their ability to achieve their full potential and to deliver on the government’s health policy objectives."


Palliative Care Australia (PCA) has said while the Budget aims to put every health care dollar as close to the patient as possible, there aren’t many dollars to go around.

Chief executive Liz Callaghan said PCA is concerned that the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) has been significantly cut.

PCA said the Department of Health says the ACFI has experienced unanticipated growth in the complex health domain and as a result indexation will be halved leading to a reduction of funding of $1.2 billion.

Callaghan said use of the complex health domain is what most aged-care providers rely on to provide palliative care.

“PCA is concerned that residents in aged care will miss out on receiving high quality care at the end of life,” Callaghan said. “While we support being fiscally responsible, we call on the government to commit to closely monitoring the impact of this cut to ensure there is no reduction in the quality of care as a result of this cut.”

PCA again called for the introduction of quality of death audits.


The Budget contains no new major policies or programs that would improve the lives of Australian’s living with dementia and their carers, Alzheimer’s Australia has said.

Alzheimer’s Australia national chief executive Carol Bennett said: “At a time when dementia is the second leading cause of death and is projected to affect almost a million people by 2050 with significant economic and social costs to Australia, we need national investment to drive a co-ordinated approach from prevention through to cure."

Bennett said perhaps the most positive outcome for people living with dementia is the continued support for dementia specific flexible funding. “This will enable some evidence based improvements in dementia support which is much needed,” Bennett said.


It is clear the government is not prioritising prevention and has missed a significant opportunity to invest in the health and wellbeing of Australians.

This is the call from Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) vice-president David Templeman.

PHAA said the bulk of funding focused on treatment and clinical services instead of prevention initiatives. Templeman said: “This budget is very treatment focussed. We must shift to a model which focuses on prevention rather than waiting for someone to become sick and relying on healthcare and hospital services.”


The $2.9 billion being promised in the Budget for health is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a severed limb, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation has said.

In the lead up to the Budget announcements, the ANMF called on the Turnbull Government to “begin restoring the $57 billion cut from national health funding under previous prime minister Tony Abbott”.

Acting federal secretary of the ANMF Annie Butler said the $2.9 billion being promised in the Budget for health won’t go anywhere near ensuring that the states and territories’ hospitals can operate effectively and efficiently.

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