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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Senator Ruston criticises Budget’s lack of ‘real seamanship’ in tackling pressing healthcare challenges

Health Industry Hub | May 17, 2024 |

Pharma News: Senator Anne Ruston, Shadow Health Minister, was warmly welcomed at the Post-Budget event held in Parliament House yesterday by the Generic Biosimilar Medicines Association (GBMA).

Senator Ruston highlighted her observations of the Federal Budget, stating, “What struck me most was that the Budget didn’t have any real seamanship pieces to address the challenges that are before us, including cost of living, workforce issues and access to primary care – because every other sector gets pressure put on it when primary care isn’t working.”

Emphasising the pressing concern of primary care accessibility, she cited the 1.2 million Australians last year who chose not to see their GP because they said they couldn’t afford to.

“Access to primary care is harder and more expensive. We’re seeing bulk billing rates plummeting and our hospitals are seeing ramping as a result of this crisis. When you’re faced with a choice of whether to go to the emergency department and get it for free, or having to pay for it, we are seeing people taking action and voting with their feet in that regard,” she stated.

In response to the Federal Budget, Peter Dutton, Leader of the Opposition, also highlighted the declining bulk billing rates, noting that when the Liberal Party left government, bulk billing stood at 88.5%. He expressed concern over the hidden decrease to 77% in the current Federal Budget, signifying an 11% point drop. Additionally, he emphasised Australia’s impending shortage of GPs, projected to reach 11,000 by 2031.

At the GBMA event, Senator Ruston conveyed disappointment regarding the Budget’s focus on strengthening Medicare by predominantly funnelling funds to the states and territories.

“I always worry when we hand over great chunks of money, and in this case, nearly $2 billion to the states and territories. The lack of transparency of what happens with that money is something that the Commonwealth Government needs to do a lot more work on,” Senator Ruston expressed.

Furthermore, she raised concerns about the delay in finalising the agreement between the Pharmacy Guild and the government under the 8CPA.

“The Budget only touched on changes to co-pay and getting rid of the dollar discount, masquerading them as ‘cheaper medicines.’ It actually is medicines that aren’t going up in price,” she remarked.

On the workforce front, Senator Ruston echoed the Opposition’s call for a comprehensive integrated strategy for the care workforce “because at the moment we’re just seeing one area in the sector stealing stuff from another in desperation.”

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