Securing Better Aged Care

26 Feb 2018 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby) (11:04): We are here to talk about the motion today, because the coalition government are doing a range of excellent things in the healthcare space, including giving people more choice over the sort of care that will best suit them, their families and their needs. In February last year we transitioned to a new home care system which gives consumers—individuals and families—more choice and control over the care that best suits their needs. The new system means that packages are released directly to consumers rather than to providers, and people who have the most urgent needs or have been waiting the longest receive care packages first.

We know that there is a strong demand for the higher levels packages, and it's important to note that people needing these packages are receiving interim support packages which allow them to access services while they wait. In September last year we announced the release of an additional 6,000 level 3 and level 4 home care packages over the year 2017-18. This more than doubled the planned growth of high-level packages this financial year, and a number of these have already been assigned to people. The minister and the government are releasing almost 2,500 home care packages on a weekly basis. In addition to this, in the 2017 budget, the government provided an investment of $5.5 billion to extend the Commonwealth Home Support Program for a further two years to June 2020.

I want to note some other very important points that relate to the care that we provide to all members of our community but which are particularly important to the older members of our community. We have record rates of bulk-billing under this government. Something like 85.9 per cent of all GP visits are now bulk-billed. That's a remarkable achievement that helps many people, particularly our older community members and our pensioners. We have added more than 1,500 new and amended medicines worth $7.5 billion to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which means greater access to medicines for people who need them most—often our older citizens. Also, under the coalition government, the funding for public hospital services, which is also of course of great importance to our older citizens, has increased from $13.8 billion in the year 2013-14 at the end of the failed Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government to a record $22.7 billion for 2020-21. This is a 64 per cent increase in funding. This means more doctors, more nurses, more surgeries and fewer wait times in hospitals across the nation but particularly in my home state of South Australia.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Minister for Health announced some really exciting news at the COAG meeting about an additional $30 billion for public hospital funding, which would provide almost $128 million over the five years from 2020. But unfortunately this was apparently not enough for the Premier of South Australia, who is only interested in cutting funding to public hospitals and shutting them down. One of the most important and iconic community hospitals in my electorate of Boothby which particularly serviced a lot of my older residents was the repat hospital, and the state Labor government have shut it down. It is one of the most disgraceful things the state Labor government have done. My community remain terribly distressed about this, and I am really pleased that when we see the state Liberal Party elected on 17 March they will reopen a number of key services at the repat hospital including things such as orthopaedic surgery, which for a lot of our older residents is just absolutely a critical service that they use quite a lot.

The repat hospital was built for our returned service men and women, and they are many of the people who are suffering from the fact that this hospital has been shut down. Providing these sorts of services, particularly through the repat hospital, is how we look after the older members of our community, working with the support that the government is providing through home care packages which give people choice over their care.