A new outpatient clinic for the northside, a new palliative care in-patient unit at Canberra Hospital and an upgrade to support services for new mothers have been promised to Canberra in a $20 million health pitch from Federal Labor.
Fresh from his Budget reply speech last night in which he promised a $2.3 billion package to reduce out-of-pocket costs for cancer patients, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his health spokesperson Catherine King visited Canberra Hospital this morning with local candidates Andrew Leigh, Alicia Payne and David Smith to unveil the ACT initiatives.
Mr Shorten pledged $20 million to these new services, while also honouring all existing Commonwealth commitments such as the upgrade to Canberra Hospital ICU announced in the Budget.
Labor has promised $10 million for a new outpatient clinic at Calvary Public Hospital in Bruce, giving residents of the ACT and southern NSW better access to free specialist appointments.
“As the population of Canberra and the surrounding southern NSW region rapidly expands and ages, demand for health services in this area is growing quickly – including for specialists and elective surgery,” Mr Shorten said.
“This new clinic is expected to deliver timely care for a range of common specialities and ultimately lead to improved health outcomes for patients who need surgery.”
Labor will also invest $6 million for a new palliative care in-patient unit at Canberra Hospital, which will give the hospital better capacity to provide critical care for patients as they reach the end of their lives.
“We are committed to improving palliative care across the country to ensure all Australians are afforded the comfort, dignity and privacy they need in their final days,” he said.
The Coalition committed $4 million in the Budget to palliative care centre Clare Holland House.
Labor will also spend $4 million to upgrade QEII Family Centre in Curtin to provide in-patient support to women experiencing post-natal difficulties, such as breastfeeding problems or having a baby with special needs.
This will pay for two additional in-patient beds, as well as new spaces to have day services and drop-in services as the role of QEII is expanded.
Mr Shorten said last night that Labor would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for cancer diagnostic imaging by opening up MRIs across the country for cancer scans, and allocating $600 million to improve access to and affordability of diagnostic imaging.
This will be welcomed in Canberra which has the highest breast cancer rates in the nation, with 133.6 cases of breast cancer per 100,000 females.
He pledged a further $433 million to fund a new bulk-billed Medicare item for consultations with oncologists and surgeons for Australians diagnosed with cancer, as well as guaranteeing to list all cancer drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme recommended by experts.
Mr Shorten said the Canberra investments would be paid for through Labor’s $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund, which would more than reverse Coalition cuts as well as fund new capital projects.
He said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had cut $715 million from hospitals as Treasurer under the current 2017 to 2020 funding agreement with the states, and had locked in even bigger cuts for the next five years.