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Public and preventive health programs under cloud

The future of important public and preventive health and support programs for Alzheimer’s, palliative care, alcohol and addiction, rural and Indigenous health are under a cloud after the Federal Government announced almost $1 billion of cuts from health programs.

In a decision that has thrown doubts over the funding of organisations including Alzheimer’s Australia, Palliative Care Australia and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, the Government said it would achieve savings of $962.8 million over the next five years by “rationalising and streamlining funding across a range of Health programs”, including so-called Health Department Flexible Funds, dental workforce programs, preventive health research, GP Super Clinics  and several other sources.

AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler the lack of detail around the savings was concerning.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in Canberra and around the country at the moment as to whether those important programs, those important organisations, such as Palliative Care Australia, Alzheimer’s Australia, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, and many other non-government organisations, are going to be continued to be funded,” A/Professor Owler said. “Rather than announcing that these cuts of almost $1 billion are going to be made to those flexible funds, and leaving it up in the air for these organisations, we need to see certainty around where those cuts are going to be made, how they are going to be applied, so that these organisations can not only plan for their future but also continue their very important work.”

In addition, the Government has tagged the Health Department for an extra $113.1 million of savings in the next five years as part of its Smaller Government initiative.

It said this would be achieved by measures including consolidating the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s corporate and legal services into the Health Department, axing the National Lead Clinicians Group, replacing IT contractors by recruiting full-time staff and “ceasing activities that mirror the work of specialist agencies”, such as the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority, the National Blood Authority, and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Adrian Rollins