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Briefs – 2 June 2015

Medical Research Future Fund on the way

More than a year after it was first announced, the Federal Government has finally introduced legislation to establish the Medical Research Future Fund.

The Fund, which the Government expects to grow to $20 billion by the end of the decade, has been under a cloud because several of the savings measures originally intended to finance it – particularly the GP co-payment – have been dumped or not yet passed.

But AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler recently challenged the Government to stop dithering on the issue and set the Fund up, pointing out that a large swag of the measures designated to finance it were in place.

In introducing the enabling legislation, Treasurer Joe Hockey said the Fund would receive an initial endowment of $1 billion from the Health and Hospitals Fund and would build to reach $20 billion in 2019-20.

Mr Hockey said the first $10 million from the Fund would be distributed next financial year, and estimated that $400 million would be disbursed in the next four years.

The Fund will be managed by the Future Fund Board of Guardians, while a separate board will be established to provide expert advice on medical research priorities and strategy.

Adrian Rollins

Mersey Hospital two-year funding deal

Funding for Tasmania’s Mersey Community Hospital has been extended for two years following an in-principle agreement struck between the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments.

Health Minister Sussan Ley said the Federal Government would pay its State counterpart $148.5 million to continue to manage and operate the hospital over the next two years.

The Mersey Hospital became the first and only public hospital to be directly funded by the Commonwealth when the Howard Government controversially assumed responsibility for the institution after the Tasmanian Government wanted to downgrade it to a day procedure centre, with only a limited overnight emergency capacity.

The intervention, which occurred just weeks before the 2007 Federal election that the Howard Government lost, was unprecedented at the time, and has not been repeated since.

Ms Ley said the deal provided certainty for the hospital while the Tasmanian Government undertakes reforms of the State health system.

Adrian Rollins