Date published: 
12 December 2018
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

LEON BYNER:

Let's talk to the federal Health Minister, and wish him merry Christmas, Greg Hunt. Hi.

GREG HUNT:

Good morning Leon.

LEON BYNER:

Tell me, first of all with regards to the cancers. When you get approached to put money in the kitty for research, what are the criteria you apply before you say, yep, here it is?

GREG HUNT:

Sure. So these programmes or projects are what are called peer reviewed, in other words medical experts review them then they recommend to the Government saying, this has a high likelihood of two things.

One, is conducting- being conducted exactly as it's proposed. So it's got credible people with a credible research proposal.

LEON BYNER:

Yep.

GREG HUNT:

And a significant prospect of success in either delivering a benefit to patients or advancing the science which will allow us to have future benefits to patients.

So for example, there's a prostate cancer research and treatment programme which is being funded today, for the University of South Australia. Again, that's part of an $86 million cancer allocation, which is part of a half a billion dollar medical research allocation (inaudible).

But it's actually about those people that are suffering from prostate cancer, having access to treatment and research which would otherwise not have been available to them. So all these things are about what's going to produce a real human outcome.

LEON BYNER:

The one thing that I noticed a couple of days ago, was this significant amount of money for a lot of these eating disorders.

GREG HUNT:

Yes. So on Sunday the Prime Minister and I announced - look, it's $110 million but it's not the money. It's a dedicated Medicare pathway for people with eating disorders. We know that up to a million Australians have eating disorders at any one time. And with anorexia and bulimia, with purging, they can be catastrophic physically and mentally.

LEON BYNER:

Yeah.

GREG HUNT:

It's a huge impact on families. So, this means that people with eating disorders and their families, for the first time, can have access to dedicated, Medicare supported treatment. Up to 60 treatments a year.

LEON BYNER:

Now, on another issue, I noticed that you and the Prime Minister have announced an overall grant, and this is across Australia, of a guaranteed $1.25 billion boost to health services, which you're saying is going to provide more doctors, nurses, services in every state and territory. What's our share of that?

GREG HUNT:

So it will be broadly based on population across all of the states. What we see is it will have applications from the states, but also the community, which is what's unique, so for people hearing about this for the first time, the Prime Minister announced in Adelaide this morning, that we would have a $1.25 billion community health and hospital programme.

So he's working with Premier Marshall, I think literally as we speak, as well as with the other premiers on their list of priorities and proposals.

But we're also asking the community for their priorities. It could be drug and alcohol services. It might be something such as the repat centre, that I know Nicole Flint has been a great advocate for in terms of additional services as the only repat centre is brought back to life in terms of mental health, drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

It could be something in Mount Gambier to drug and alcohol rehabilitation. I know Tony Pasin has been arguing very, very strongly for that, as an example.

So these types of things from the community as well as from the government, mental health for adults, not just for youth. We've got to keep expanding youth services but, you know, mental health services for adults is so critical.

LEON BYNER:

Now I want to ask you about country health, particularly in SA. Because a lot of communities regionally across SA, have been somewhat disadvantaged because when you take out services from a country hospital, you lose a lot of other ancillary people. It can be pharmacists, GPs, all sorts of things. Are we going to address that?

GREG HUNT:

Yes. This is an important part of it.

The rural and regional focus is a very significant component. In particular we've talked about cancer services in rural and regional areas. It could be a linear accelerator. It could be a place where infusions or treatments in hospital for different types of, the immunotherapies that you raised before.

LEON BYNER:

Sure.

GREG HUNT:

Can be delivered. So as people don't have to travel two or three hundred kilometres.

So this is a chance to expand those services and it's an important step forward. And whether it's cancer treatment, whether it's mental health, whether it's drug and alcohol support, and we know South Australia has real challenges with both ice and opioids.

You can see how, right across the state, the Riverland, Mount Gambier. It could be Fleurieu. It could be Port Lincoln, where there are some significant challenges as well, or Adelaide, but there's the capacity for people to put forward and for the state to put forward high priority needs, with high quality solutions.

LEON BYNER:

I ask this question for a couple of reasons, and the most recent one is that we've had a lot of overcrowding here as you know, and what we've decided to do in some cases, is take people out of say the NRAH and put them in a regional hospital. Which might be fine for them, but then their relatives will have terrible trouble visiting them and there's other geographical disadvantages. So do you think this funding will help reduce that problem?

GREG HUNT:

Well it's designed to ensure that we have both better services in country and city areas. We've increased nationally, we've increased hospital funding on our watch by 55 per cent.

As opposed to 18 per cent across the state. I know Steven Marshall and Stephen Wade are working very hard to address some of the legacy issues, I'll call them that, that they inherited with the Royal Adelaide Hospital, but they are making good progress.

So I think their goal is to ensure that people don't have to be moved like that and this funding should assist with that programme.

LEON BYNER:

Now this may be a question on notice, or you may know the answer. But the State Government are announcing to build or rebuild the Women's and Children's. Is the federal government or the federal taxpayer likely to chip in to the cost of that?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I know that they are proposing that. I won't pre-empt the community health and hospitals programme specific items. It's an opportunity for them to put in. It could be that they, for example, want to put in for additional equipment; additional strengthening in terms of something such as a paediatric and colorectal surgery centre.

LEON BYNER:

Sure.

GREG HUNT:

That's an example that's coming from the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

That's the type of thing where we could assist with an expansion to provide new services, which otherwise wouldn't be available.

There could be a paediatric oncology unit. There could, you know, any number of different proposals.

We're open. I won't pre-empt any of them, because I actually haven't received those proposals. The programme only opened today, but I think of all of these things in terms of, will it save lives and will it protect lives? And that's our test.

LEON BYNER:

Greg, thanks for coming on and merry Christmas.

GREG HUNT:

Thanks Leon. Merry Christmas to you and to everybody listening.