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AHHA welcomes new primary healthcare strategy

17 June, 2008

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has welcomed the announcement by Health Minister Nicola Roxon of the development of a new primary healthcare strategy.

The AHHA is the peak national body for public hospitals, area health services, community health centres and public aged care providers.

"Primary care is the bedrock of our health system and the development of a comprehensive and integrated primary healthcare strategy is long overdue," Prue Power, Executive Director, said.

"Currently, our primary healthcare system is not meeting the needs of either consumers or providers. Many people have problems accessing the primary healthcare provider of their choice and growing workforce shortages in many areas are putting additional stress on a system already struggling to meet demand.

"Despite some recent improvements, we are still failing to manage the growing burden of chronic disease in the community. This problem will only increase as our population ages and the incidence of chronic conditions increases.

"The result of this failure in primary care is high levels of preventable illness and disability in the community which adds to the strain on our over-burdened hospital system. In fact, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has estimated that over 500 000 Australians are hospitalised every year for conditions which could have been prevented or managed in the community.

"AHHA also welcomes Minister Roxon's focus on workforce issues within the proposed Strategy. Our health workforce is our most precious health resource and we need to ensure that we have a primary health workforce that can meet our current and future needs for high quality, community-based care.

"Australian health workforce practices lag behind that of many other countries in areas such as workforce substitution and role flexibility. It is important that the strategy addresses this issue and considers how the roles of health professionals can be expanded to provide safe and effective services which better meet consumers' needs.

"The AHHA congratulates Dr Tony Hobbs on his appointment as Chair of the Primary Health Care External Reference Group and looks forward to providing input into the development of the Strategy," Power said.