Abbott seeks after hours GP boost

Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s multi-billion health and hospitals policy will undo the reforms agreed on by the Commonwealth and the states earlier this year, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally says.

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Mr Abbott has unveiled his hospitals policy, announcing that a coalition government would provide $3.1 billion to pay for an extra 2800 hospital beds over four years.

Abbott pledged $833 million to support GPs and boost Medicare, including $140 million to increase after hours Medicare rebates and $25 million to boost after hours services.

He said that a Council of Australian Governments report showed that 42.5 per cent of patients in emergency departments could have seen a GP instead, and said the funding boost was aimed at relieving the pressure on hospitals.

Health plan slammed

However, his plans were criticised by Ms Keneally, who played a key role in the COAG negotiations with government over health reform.

The Premier said Mr Abbott offered nothing to ease the structural and financial pressures on the country’s health system.

“Gone would be the $1.2 billion flowing into the health system in NSW, gone would be the Commonwealth proposal for after-hours GP contact,” Ms Keneally said at Sydney’s RPA Hospital on Thursday.

“Gone would be the GP clinics … gone would be the important connection between primary care, hospital care and aged care.

“What Mr Abbott is proposing is a one-off injection of funds – it does nothing to address the structural challenges that exist in the health and hospital system, does nothing to address the challenges of an ageing population.”

NSW next step

Ms Keneally on Thursday announced the state’s next step in meeting the COAG reforms – breaking eight NSW area health services into 17 local hospital networks.

The creation of local networks were a key component of former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s overhaul of the national health system.

NSW has released a discussion paper on its plans, which would see eight networks in the greater Sydney metropolitan area and seven regional networks.

Two state-wide specialist networks for Children’s Health and Forensic Mental Health have also been proposed.

Ms Keneally said the new networks would be administered by a chief executive and a governing council of between nine and 13 members.

“The discussion paper proposes both the boundaries for the new Local Health Networks, the hospitals within each network, and the services the would deliver,” Ms Keneally said.

The NSW government has called for submissions on its discussion paper before September 1.