Patient Zana Sweeney chats with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during his visit to Hervey Bay Hospital yesterday.
Patient Zana Sweeney chats with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during his visit to Hervey Bay Hospital yesterday. ALISTAIR BRIGHTMAN

Rudd's health reform 'road test'

THE Kevin Rudd health road show rolled immaculately into the Fraser Coast yesterday, leaving local health professionals charmed, bewildered and soundly out-manoeuvred.

Mr Rudd spent a convivial three hours at Hervey Bay Hospital, 20 minutes in meeting patients and “being mobbed by staff”, said the district CEO Kevin Hegarty, and talkfesting the recent National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission’s interim report.

The report is designed to do more than just “band-aid and bandage” our bleeding health system, Mr Rudd said.

The prime minister canvassed cost and care crises in the health system – our bleak future, considering our ageing population and increasing chronic illnesses, our alarming childhood obesity, escalating pharmaceutical costs, lack of access to services, insufficient hospital beds, patients and doctors’ difficulties in navigating their way through the system and wanting after-hospital care.

This was Mr Rudd’s 17th health forum appearance.

But he offered no concrete solutions. And when he was asked a question he could not handle he said his people would take the details of the questioner down and refer it to a government minister.

The Chronicle asked him: “Have you singled out any issue that you believe could or should be acted upon ASAP?”

“Our time table is not exactly removed from that.

“We’ve said we would indicate what the government’s long-term reform decisions would be early next year and it’s November now.”

The prime minister added these decisions “had brewed and brewed and brewed for decades and decades and decades under governments of all political persuasions.

“Here are 132 of the commission’s national recommendations. This is an important hospital.

“This community I take personally seriously. We will road test those recommendations from these health professionals here.

“My job as the Australian government is to look after long-term national reforms, how that’s funded, how it’s structured and therefore how is that best delivered to communities like this?”

The prime minister added he was about “minimising the bureaucracy, maximising the dollars through to the service delivery point”.

“That is what people want here in Hervey Bay.”

Mr Rudd said the time was now past for “internal response, bits and pieces responses and the odd bit of patching on the way through”.

But he said that on wandering through the hospital for 20 minutes he’d met patients who were “highly praising of the quality of local nursing medical attention”.

“We need to have an intelligent national conversation to find the best landing point for the nation and for the next 25 years.”

Updates:

Sick system in urgent need of help

Enough talk, Mr Rudd  (and leave your comments...)

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