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Federal Health Budget delivers mixed bag for NT

29 May, 2007

The Health Minister Chris Burns said while the Federal Budget is good as far as it goes, many of the health initiatives do not fit the Territory.

“On the face of it, the injection of funding to support two Medicare items relating to chronic disease is a sensible investment – especially given the level of chronic disease in the Territory,” Dr Burns said. 

“I also welcome new funding for reducing the incidents of type-2 diabetes, and enhanced Medicare benefits for patients with chronic and complex conditions who need dental treatment. 

“But the reality is that these initiatives are accessed through general practitioners, and we are desperately short of GPs across the Territory. The provision of GP services is a Federal Government responsibility.

“The NT Government has identified a shortage of 60 GPs, and this Budget does little to increase those numbers or improve access to bulk-billing doctors.

“There is some funding for better access to after-hours GP services but whether this will translate into more services for Territorians is unclear.

“There is only a very small funding increase for remote and rural GP incentives – and this doesn’t help Darwin and Palmerston, which also have shortages.”

Dr Burns said the Federal Government had missed the opportunity to make large investments in Aboriginal health.

“There are only minor increases, not the major commitment to the expansion of primary health care that we know is already delivering results across Australia.”

Dr Burns said there were positives for the Territory in health research, mosquito control and the Federal Government’s decision to take over funding of the rotavirus vaccination program.

“I look forward to working cooperatively with the Federal Government on these initiatives. I will also continue to push for more GPs and increased resources for primary health care.”