I caught up a few minutes ago with Minister Greg Hunt.
It is a very powerful and very moving report and that’s exactly why we called it.
We called it after we saw the reviews into the tragedy of Oakden where you and many others played an important part in bringing it to light.
But immediate action – 1) we went straight from the briefing into the royal commission to the Council of Australian Government health meeting and with Stephen Wade from South Australia, we were able to make the safety and quality of medicine management a national priority.
That’s an immensely important part of responding to the royal commission.
One of the three interim findings that they want immediate action on are firstly, chemical restraint for older Australians and this goes to the chemical restraint question with more to come in coming weeks as we simply work through the details and to make sure with the medical community and the pharmaceutical community, we’ve got the right answers.
But chemical restraint is an immediate one with action taken immediately.
Secondly, we’re currently working through the report to understand the priorities that it identifies with regards to homecare. So more support and more funding for homecare – the Prime Minister’s already (inaudible) young people.
Can I just say, the homecare packages are not happening anywhere near as fast as they need to and there was a figure – I’m sure you’re aware of this – 16,000 people end up deceased before they get it, which is hardly useful.
What are we going to do about that?
So what we’ve done and then what we’ll do. What we’ve done is we have doubled the number of homecare places that we inherited when we came into Government, and in the last year alone increased by 25,000 packages or 25 per cent.
In the last year, we’ve gone from 100 to 125,000 and.
Yes, but we’re not getting them to people quickly enough Minister, that’s the problem.
Well this is one of the things we’re absolutely focused on, expanding the number of packages to have more people given access.
At present, about 97 per cent of people have some form of access once they’re prescribed a package.
And what we need to do is obviously to have more of those out there.
In doing that, one of the critical things is to make sure that we have the work force so as the safety and quality is at a level that is acceptable, desirable and honours the older Australians who are.
So when will we notice a difference for those people who are qualified or have been assessed and are waiting, when will we notice the difference that this will speed up because it needs to?
Well the Prime Minister said we will have more packages in place before Christmas and as I said yesterday, we’ll actually have the announcement within weeks.
We want to work through to make sure that we’re honouring and identifying all of the elements in the report which was released to us and released to the public at the same time.
We had a briefing only an hour before it was released.
We took, as I said, immediate action on the chemical restraint with more to come on that. We are doing the work and we’ve (inaudible) planning on the homecare.
And the other one which we’ll take- start to take immediate steps on but which will, as the commission said, that take time to actually implement and which the Prime Minister himself identified in the terms of the royal commission, referenced, was young people in aged care.
And the NDIS is a critical part of helping them not going in and helping them to come out of aged care.
It was a historic relic, if I can put it that way, something which was done in the past and on our watch, in our time, we’re determined to produce a better outcome, not just for older Australians but for younger people who had been put into aged care settings and that’s not an appropriate place.
Minister, the private health insurance industry is saying that we have to be more flexible in the rules and I'll give you an example, a couple of examples, where a lot of people are saying, look, our out of pocket expenses are too high and we should be able to get some coverage away from hospitals and outpatient services.
The other interesting call we got the other day and a lot of people have this happen - they get into an ambulance.
The hospital that the ambulance might take them to being a public one is overrun, so they have to go somewhere else.
They end up going to a private hospital. They then face a bill of about $450 just to get in.
Is there any way that we might be able to modify this system so that those kinds of costs are either much lower or can be taken care of?
So I've already signalled greater flexibility on this.
Historically, the rules have been that private health only covers in hospital (inaudible).
It can cover ambulance within or ambulance cover can be done separately - I've confirmed that again this morning.
But what I have said is, and again working not just with the South Australian Minister, but I have talked to Stephen Wade about that, but with private health insurers that this barrier that prevents people from being treated for what you might call hospital in the home, the continuation of hospital services, for rehabilitation whether it’s for mental health or for orthopaedic musculoskeletal treatment is something that I'm ready to move on.
I've invited the health insurers and we have to make sure it works first and foremost for patients, but also for all of the parts of the system to put forward ideas.
And they have said they will be coming shortly.
But that's a historic legacy and in my view, we are in a position now to look to see does it benefit the patient?
So for example, instead of a patient being admitted for 20 days for mental health and having no rehabilitation afterwards, why wouldn't we be able, if the doctor believes it's the optimal outcome, admit them for five days but to cover a series of hospital in the home recovery sessions.
And there seems to be no barrier to that that.
Now we can do this, in some cases it will involve legislation, in some cases it will involve simply a regulatory change, and that's under consideration for the first time.
And on my watch that's one of the things that I want to be able to change, is better flexibility for patients.
How soon could this happen, Minister?
So once we get the submission, we think we'd like to get it done within the next six months.
We have to be very, very careful on the clinical outcomes and standards, so the care and protection of patients that overrides everything.
But at this stage all the indications are that we could have a better outcome both in terms of private health affordability but most importantly, a better outcome in terms of things such as mental health care and recovery from orthopaedic surgery or conditions.
And those charges where if you go to a private emergency and you’re hit with a few hundred bucks before you get in, anything can we do there?
Could I ask if there are some examples from your listeners, if you could pass them through to my office, we’ll look at them, we’ll raise them with the private health insurers.
I need to have a look at the details of those but I'd be very happy to have a look at the details of those.
Minister, thanks for joining us.