Hogan vs Saffin in health debate
The federal election isn’t due until later this year, but the electioneering has already begun. While Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott slugged it out at the National Press Club over their respective health policies, local member Janelle Saffin and The Nationals candidate Kevin Hogan had their own health debate at the Lismore Workers Club on Tuesday night.
A crowd of about 40 people attended to hear Ms Saffin spruiking the government’s plan for a partial Commonwealth takeover of health funding, a 60/40 split with the states, while Kevin Hogan kept reinforcing the need to abolish Area Health Services and reinstate local hospital boards.
“In 2007, Mr Rudd said our health system was in crisis and if there weren’t improvements then he would intervene,” Mr Hogan said. “Now he is saying he will start dealing with it in 2013. I’d hate to see what sort of action he would take if it wasn’t in crisis.”
Mr Hogan said the 60/40 split would lead to more bureaucratic confusion, not less, and also expressed doubts about the Commonwealth’s ability to deliver, highlighting recent problems with insulation, green loans and school stimulus spending.
Ms Saffin kept referring to the ALP policy as “the most significant health reform since Medicare” and said, as well as the change to funding arrangements, the policy included $134 million to attract doctors to rural areas and 6000 new GP training places.
The ALP policy would also involve the creation of hospital networks that would be responsible for managing approximately four hospitals, depending on the region.
“The Rudd government has a national health and hospital plan and for the first time will be the dominant funder to local health services... For the first time funding for capital expenditure will come directly from the Commonwealth. That hasn’t happened before. And money for research and training,” Ms Saffin said.
She also pointed to several local health wins during her time as the member for Page, including $15 million for the Cancer Care Centre at Lismore Base Hospital, upgrades at the Grafton Base Hospital and the Grafton GP super clinic.
Both sides were extolling the virtues of having experienced local people making decisions about our local health system and “ending the blame game”. Questions from the crowd were taken at the end with one man saying he was finding it hard to differentiate between the two sides.