A peak Aboriginal health body has told a Senate committee that the proposed GP co-payment and changes to the PBS would discourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients seeking preventative health care and impact on efforts to close the gap in Aboriginal life expectancy.
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) submission to the Senate Select Committee on Health also calls for a recommitment to health promotion and early intervention programs and for a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific health initiatives.
The NACCHO submission said health policy should recognise Aboriginal people’s increasing preference to use Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services over mainstream services and ensure funding keeps up with demand and inflation.
“As a nation we must look for ways to improve the health of Aboriginal people and invest in programs and services that are working for Aboriginal people,” Mr Mohamed said.
“We must encourage Aboriginal people to get regular check ups, to see their GP and to participate in initiatives that promote healthy lifestyles.
“The introduction of extra expenses such as GP co-payment and a rise in the cost of PBS medicines will discourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to seek preventative health care and impact on their long-term health.
“The additional expenses will also seriously affect the long term sustainability of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, most of who will not pass on the charges to patients.
“For the sake of the health of Aboriginal men, women and children, these proposals must be rejected.”
Mr Mohamed urged the Senate committee to focus on preventative health measures which deliver long-term benefits through improved health and wellbeing and reduce the burden on the healthcare system at the tertiary and acute end of care.
“The NACCHO submission also calls for ongoing culturally-appropriate health programs that are specifically designed and run-by Aboriginal people as we know these have the greatest success,” Mr Mohamed said.
“In particular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific population health initiatives and child and maternal health programs must be maintained to ensure we continue to close the gap on life expectancy and infant mortality.”