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NSW is in the process of implementing Australia's health reforms which were agreed in 2010. The most relevant change affecting both the health workforce and the public is the establishment of Local Health Networks which, in NSW, will replace the existing eight Area Health Services. The new 15 LHNs will comprise a single hospital or group of hospitals and other health services that are geographically or functionally linked.
In February 2010, the Australian government was reported to be considering developing a website enabling the nation's 768 public hospitals to be compared in terms of infection rates, ICU mortality rates, medication errors and waiting times. In May 2010, the Sun-Herald newspaper used publicly available information to create the MyHospital website enabling comparison of NSW public hospitals in terms of emergency response times, surgery waiting times and other performance measures.
In 2007 significant changes to PBS pricing arrangements were made, including creation of separate pricing formularies, price reductions, price disclosure and changes to the pharmacy mark-up structure. A review of these changes indicated that they have achieved a positive impact on patients and a modest reduction in PBS expenditure. Indications for significant savings from the reforms in the future are positive but, given the likely increase in demand, the cost of the PBS will continue to grow.
Since 2003 Australian governments have implemented a range of expansionary policies regarding the medical workforce. More university places, more medical schools and more funding for training. Yet despite these efforts, an audit of the rural health workforce released in 2008 concluded that the supply of the medical workforce in rural and regional areas was too low. This led to a Rural Health Workforce Strategy. This survey will report on the background and key elements of this strategy.
In response to the Garling Report, the NSW Department of Health has created the "four pillars" of reform advocated by Garling: the Bureau of Health Information, the Clinical Excellence Commission, the Agency for Clinical Innovation and the Institute for Medical Education and Training. This report will describe these agencies and evaluate their potential impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the NSW health system.
In 2007 the Rudd Labor government was elected on a platform of health reform. In 2008, it formed the National Health and Hospitals Commission to inform its policy decisions; the NHHC reported in early 2009. In March 2010, after coming under pressure for delaying its response, the government announced its proposals for an overhaul of the health system, involving taking control and revenue away from the States and forming small hospital "networks". The plan has not been welcomed by some States.
The Australian government's intervention in the Northern Territory (NT) is the largest whole of government initiative ever undertaken in Australia. The government set up the NT Emergency Response Taskforce to oversee the implementation of the emergency measures aimed at protecting children in Aboriginal communities and normalising services and infrastructure in a sustainable way. Health interventions form a small but important part of the Response, largely centering on child health checks.
The Australian Government's response to the global financial crisis has been dramatic. It has made substantial one-off payments to most families and increases in infrastructure spending on education and transport. Health has, by and large, not received stimulus spending, but instead has been the target of savings, designed to help return the budget to surplus in the medium term. In this report we focus on the biggest health savings measure; changes to the private health insurance rebate.
On the 24th of April 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) notified the Federal Health authorities in Australia of outbreaks in Mexico, Canada, the United States and Europe of a novel influenza A virus (H1N1 influenza 2009, previously called human swine influenza). Since then the virus has spread to other countries around the world including Australia. As a result, the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza (2008) was implemented.
The Medicare Safety Net, introduced in 2004, supplements existing public insurance and offers additional coverage for families with high medical costs. A 2009 review found that the policy reduced out-of-pocket costs for some patients, but also led to significant increases in doctors' fees. Furthermore, the greatest beneficiaries of the Safety Net were families with high incomes. Here we will summarise key findings and examine government and stakeholder responses to the review.