Topics: $1.25 billion Community Health and Hospitals program; rural and regional health services
Minister, good morning.
Good morning, John.
So, we hear big lumps of money and that’s a very impressive sounding lump – $1.26 billion. What will it actually produce for people?
I think you’re absolutely right. The important thing here is not a large number, although it has been a very, very large number – $1.25 billion.
It’s the fact that it’s about ensuring that there are drug and alcohol rehabilitation services where they might not otherwise have been available.
It might be in the Central Coast, it might be in western Sydney, it could be in the southern suburbs or in New Castle; better mental health access, so supporting adult mental health and expanded youth mental health services.
In addition, (inaudible) rural cancer treatment, so whether it was Dubbo or Orange or Parke, but to ensure that we have better cancer treatment services in areas that might be – simply because they don’t have the population concentration of Sydney – they might not have had the historic investment.
So these are the sorts of things that we’re investing in. It’s been a privilege to work with the Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Brad Hazzard, the Health Minister in New South Wales. They’re very practical people. They’d say: forget all the debates; can you help us have more services on the ground? (inaudible)
So this will happen across.
(inaudible) the Prime Minister.
And then for our Queensland listeners, this is happening right across the country, is it? Is that right?
Yes, of course. Sorry. It could be in Emerald, it could be in Townsville or in areas such as Caboolture.
For example, we’ve already invested in Caboolture in a new drug and alcohol treatment centre.
That’s a model. That’s a pilot working with an organisation called Lives Lived Well, where we know that there was an ice and opioid problem and we focused on that. And indeed, that’s one of the examples of what we want to take around the country.
And it is a very important fund because we want to be able to make decisions quickly and then to improve these services and the access on the ground immediately.
It also follows on from what we did on this immensely important issue of eating disorders on the weekend in Sydney, where we announced, for the first time ever, Medicare access – dedicated Medicare access – for people who are struggling with just the agony of the most difficult eating disorder.
Can I just try and break this down, if I can? If we look at this, because obviously you’re not going to be able to put services in every regional centre or every country town so if I anticipate people who are going to say: well, I’ve had to travel hours; so what you’re say is- because at the moment, we’re talking about decentralising, getting more people living in the regions.
There’ll be more areas so you won’t have those stories of people having to travel for many, many hours for cancer treatment, either into a big city or a big regional area. They’ll be able to get that treatment closer to home.
Well look, the goal of this is absolutely clear and that is to provide more service to more people in rural and regional, as well as across the urban areas.
And the examples you give of cancer, whether it’s a linear accelerator, whether it’s the ability to have the diagnoses and the treatment at a regional hospital.
We’re building what’s called a Murray Darling Basin Medical School Network, which is, in many ways, (inaudible) with University of New South Wales, with Sydney University, with many of the smaller regional centres across New South Wales. This will then complement that.
So if you’re training the doctors in the country – and often they’ll be from the bush – then they’re more likely to stay in those areas. So we’re really working both short term and long term to try to increase regional services.
I mean, those mental health services as well; you talk about people who might end up damaging or injuring themselves or doing it to other people so they end up in hospital. So they are crucial, aren’t they? Things like- you’re talk about things like headspace and other places. (inaudible) talking about them?
Yes, this is about headspace, but it’s also about- there’s a bit of a gap in the middle.
We’ve been doing a lot on youth mental health but you can’t do enough. You just have to keep going forward.
We’ve been doing a lot on seniors’ mental health, but for adults of middle age, (inaudible) have to go to their doctor, who is rightly the starting point in this. Our GPs do an amazing job.
But then there’s been a bit of a gap. Essentially, if they’re not going to hospital then they’re short of services, and so one of the things that we’re very focused on is adult mental health services.
So, I’m aware that there’s headspace for young people; what we need to develop is a safe space for people of all ages where they can go without feeling guilt, without feeling any of these thoughts which come from an earlier time, to say: hey, there are four million of us who have a mental health challenge every year.
This is completely normal. I can seek help. I don’t have to feel guilty about it and and I know the services are there.
Alright. You know our big cities are expanding rapidly. Melbourne is about to overtake Sydney. I see some figures this morning saying Sydney’s got 2000 extra people a week arriving.
It’s probably no surprise then that the health system struggles to keep up with more and more people coming in.
Do you have some sort of overarching number as a Health Minister – knowing overall, if we have this many extra people, this is what we’re going to need in terms of the health system, the Medicare budget, and the like?
Yes. So our overall health and ageing budget is almost $100 billion this year, and then it continues to $103, $105 and $109 billion over the period of the budget.
As the population increases and people get older, that number has got to go up, and you wonder whether- even what sounds like an impressive increase is actually even keeping up?
Well, I think these additional funds will make an important difference, and what we’re doing is focusing in on the areas of need.
If there’s an area that has a high number of people with ice or opioid addiction and there isn’t a drug and alcohol treatment service or potentially an in-patient – meaning a rehab facility where people can stay overnight – then they’re the sorts of facilities where there’s high need that we’ll be focusing on.
And I know there are so many parents, there are so many families struggling with these issues that this is what we want to do and my view is: all of us are on watch for a certain period of time. When we’re in these roles we have to try to deliver outcomes.
Alright. Look, I appreciate that. It’s an important announcement today. Look, could you do something for me, a bit of self-indulgence?
On the weekends, I speak with a fellow called Ray Kelly on our weekend show. I’ve had him on a few times.
He runs Ray Kelly Fitness. He does work with Indigenous communities. He does work via the Giants AFL team.
And if I send you his details, you have a look at the work he’s done because he spoke on our weekend show about three or four weeks ago.
He’s had a few of the listeners pick up what he’s done, which is try to reduce weight and reduce their reliance on- he says he can reverse diabetes – and there’s a lot of work saying you can do it now – and he’s had spectacular results.
He’s the sort of guy that ought to be funded better, I would have thought. So if you could just have a look at his stuff for me.
I think- he’s doing a lot of work that really is going to help you and your other health ministers – perhaps you won’t be spending as much on some of these people in the future. So if you could do that for me, I’d really appreciate it.
Well, if you can get me Ray’s number, I’ll give Ray a call.
Yip, I think it’d be well worth a chat. He’s a very good man. Thank you for that.