House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2024


Health Care

7:40 pm

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention) Share this | Hansard source

Reviews, committees and more reviews do not make good health policy. The lack of action from the Albanese Labor government when it comes to health across the nation is really concerning. There's so much smoke and mirrors by the Labor health minister on health care, it is absolutely extraordinary. I'll tell you a bit about it.

The public are being sold a positive story on health, but further inspection shows that there is so much lacking. To name a few concerns, there are concerns from Australians and stakeholders around bulk-billing and community pharmacies, and the rollout of the Medicare urgent care clinics and the kids Head to Health hubs. We have a government that has slashed Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions in half, and it continues to call for reviews, meaning change in the sector is just not happening at all. There are issues regarding the National Diabetes Services Scheme and access to pumps that deliver life-saving insulin. There is a shingles vaccine shortage, and we have low rates of COVID vaccine uptake in aged-care facilities. I have stakeholder after stakeholder saying that they can't even get in the door of the health minister to talk with him. These stakeholders include mental health organisations, medtech companies and medical researchers.

Let's start with the Labor government's response to the report of the House's Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport inquiry into long COVID. As deputy chair of the committee and shadow assistant minister for mental health and suicide prevention, I am particularly dismayed by some of the government's comments in response to the report. The health committee, in recommendation 6 of the report, noted:

    The government's response, and, more pointedly, the minister's response, stated:

    … a number of mental health supports are currently available to those impacted by COVID-19. These include Medicare-subsidised psychological services through the MBS Better Access Initiative … a range of online and digital supports …

    It is extraordinary that the government is recommending people access a program that they have cut in half. Thirteen months on from when the cuts came into effect—in January 2023—it is being reported that fewer people have been accessing psychology sessions, whilst mental ill health continues to rise in Australia.

    Let's not forget the broken commitment on Labor's Medicare urgent care clinics. We saw scores of clinics open late across the country. The government talk a big game now, talking up their Medicare urgent care clinics, but they opened late. And some of them, like in my electorate of Lindsay, only stay open until 8 pm, not the promised extended hours to help with emergency wait times.

    The quickness of the government's 60-day prescription policy will see impacts across the country, according to the Pharmacy Guild—quickness in completely blindsiding community pharmacists across the country. I've held a roundtable with pharmacists, ongoing in my community, who are bewildered by this decision. It means that pharmacies will be paid once for twice the amount of work, and we know that costs will increase and that those costs will be passed on to consumers.

    We have doctors across the country who are putting off giving seniors the shingles vaccine because there is a shortfall. We need a government that takes medical procurement seriously.

    We've heard from the Stoma Industry Association that another review is being conducted into the Stoma Appliance Scheme. I am informed by the association that there have been multiple reviews over the last two decades, and they weren't made public. I hope the next report by this government makes the findings public to assist. This is just one example of the litany of reviews and commitments with which this Labor government is dragging everything down the track. It is not only in this industry; it involves multiple sectors and review after review.

    The recent NDSS decision about constant glucose monitoring devices means less choice for people with type 1 diabetes. We need solutions and better medical technology across the board. I know my fellow health portfolio holders in the House agree with me on this. They are working really hard to hold the government to account. So we're calling on the government to step up in the health space, because right now the nation depends on it.


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