The Doctors Reform Society (DRS) is an organisation of doctors and medical students promoting measures to improve health for all, in a socially just and equitable way. The Society was formed in 1973 to support a proposal for a publicly-funded universal health insurance system. Medibank (now Medicare) was successfully created despite opposition from the Australian Medical Association.
All members’ views are valued, and open debate on all health issues is encouraged both within and outside the organisation. The DRS functions as a medico-political think tank, a lobby group and a public resource centre.
Membership of the Doctors’ Reform Society is open to all medical practitioners and medical students who believe that everyone, regardless of their social or economic status, should have access to high quality healthcare.Click here to find out more about membership
The National DRS Conference was held in Perth, in late October. Saturday featured two excellent presentations on issues of enormous public health significance.
Firstly, Dr Alice McGushin (intern, Royal Perth Hospital, WA) outlined the challenges around Climate Change and Health, in particular highlighting the health implications of the Paris Agreement (which has recently been officially internationally ratified) and assessing actions and programmes organised by various Doctor and Medical Student groups. She discussed her own involvement in many of these organisations, in which she has been a leader over many years.
Secondly, Dr Raewyn Mutch (Consultant Paediatrician, Princess Margaret Hospital, WA) discussed the factors that lead to people seeking asylum, and the downstream impact of these factors (including war, conflict and discrimination) on health. She also shared her first-hand experiences in working in a Refugee Health clinic, and her experience of the impact of Australian Government policies on individuals and communities.Read more here
“The report card on public hospital performance released by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) yesterday showing a nationwide deterioration in the capacity of those hospitals to care for the 54% of Australians without private health insurance”, said Dr Tim Woodruff, president, Doctors Reform Society. “These are real people with major health problems. Many could be working, increasing Australia’s productivity. Many could be managing to live without the support of their relatives, releasing them to add to Australia’s productivity. They have been forgotten by a parsimonious Federal Government which can easily find extra taxes to subsidise private health insurance but not to pay its share of public hospital funding. These patients’ preventable pain and suffering is ignored.”
“Whilst the AMA holds to the incorrect view that public hospitals should be a safety net for the poor, it at least wants these hospitals to perform better. The Federal Government would appear very happy that public hospital care is inadequate as it then forces the desperate and concerned to take out private health insurance even if it is a huge financial struggle to do so.”
“Since Medicare was introduced, access to public hospitals without any personal costs has been an essential part of our health system. Combined with improved access to GPs, it has been the basis for a fairer health system, aiming to enable anyone, irrespective of wealth, to get good health care. Instead we continue to move Medicare and public hospitals towards a grossly inadequate safety net for the poor, a financial struggle and potential disaster for the middle class, and wonderful access for all those on politicians’ incomes and more.”
“The Great Dividing Range used to be a barrier to the growth of our nation”, said Dr Woodruff. “The divide between rich and poor engineered by this Federal Government will be the new barrier.”
Dr Tim Woodruff Dr Con Costa President Vice President
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The Medicare rebate freeze is here to stay. Despite the Federal Government announcing it had heard the electorate expressing their concerns about Medicare at the election the Prime Minister is ploughing on, claiming that savings must be made, that people should pay a copayment if they can, and anyway the bulk billing rate is going up so patients aren’t missing out.
Do savings need to be made?
Countries increase their spending on health care as they get richer. In the last decade Australia has increased spending on health care from 8.8% of GDP to 10%, a figure very slightly above the median for OECD countries (1). Our budget deficit is lower than almost every OECD country.