Federation reform and health: opportunities to serve communities but national leadership required

Thursday, March 19, 2015

“While we have a good health system, it is not good for all, and it can be made better.”

As a contribution to the Reform of the Federation process, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) brought together over 130 health leaders on 16 March 2015 to discuss the challenges and opportunities for change in the way health services are provided to all Australians.

While many issues were raised and debated on the day, the common thread related to the complexity in our current system. Participants agreed that the opportunity to address accountability gaps, waste, confusion amongst both consumers and providers, and a system that does not fully meet the health needs of large sections of our population, must be seized with this reform process.

The challenge of managing chronic disease, in terms of cost, and the need for preventive and integrated patient-centric care, was a dominant theme. An effective e-health strategy was identified as essential in improving how the health system operates, and in particular, improving quality of care and patient safety. Regional health care planning was also seen as crucial in the provision of good health care – and localism was proposed in meeting the needs of communities as “we live in a community, not a health system”.

The prevailing view of the Commonwealth Government that health spending is out of control was not widely accepted by participants, and it was noted that the strategy of increasingly shifting the financial burden to the States and Territories as well as consumers wasn’t sustainable. The Commonwealth’s decision in 2014 not to honour partnership agreement provisions for growth funding of hospitals presents an enormous challenge for the States and Territories. It was argued that finance should serve good health policy, not the other way around, and that strengthening of the tax base may be required, but must give due consideration to impacts on low income earners.

The Think Tank demonstrated that measured debate around all these issues must include broad engagement with all health stakeholders, not just selected advocacy or private sector groups, a point which representatives from all major political parties agreed.

“AHHA believes that any change should build on the work done by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, and take into account the very real health needs that are not being adequately met within our current institutional and funding arrangements. Consideration should also be given to better ways of planning and delivering health care, not just a passing of the baton from one level of government to another, or worse, a palming off of responsibility to ensure high quality health services for all Australians,” says Alison Verhoeven, AHHA Chief Executive.


For more information on the AHHA, visit http://ahha.asn.au.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community.

Media enquiries:

Alison Verhoeven, 

Chief Executive, The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association

0403 282 501