THE HON ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
THE HON CHRIS BOWEN MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH
MEMBER FOR MCMAHON
MORRISON MUST INCREASE HEALTH RESPONSE TO BUSHFIRE CRISIS
Today we call on the Government to urgently increase the health response to the bushfire crisis to meet the ongoing physical and mental health needs of communities and first responders.
Our message to Prime Minister Morrison today is simple. Every bushfire-affected area must get the best possible support from Medicare. Every person in a bushfire-affected area must be able to access mental health support. Financial cost should be no barrier to getting the health treatment people need.
That is why today we are calling on the Government to temporarily extend all Medicare rural incentives to all bushfire-affected areas. The Government should:
- Expand Medicare telehealth rebates to all services in bushfire-affected areas;
- Ensure the higher rural bulk-billing incentives are available in all bushfire-affected areas;
- Allow overseas-trained doctors and bonded doctors to practice in all bushfire-affected areas.
This is in addition to the previous calls from Labor not yet accepted by the Government to coordinate with states to increase access to medical specialists, including respiratory specialists.
To ensure every young person in a bushfire-affected area can access mental health support the Government should:
- Upgrade the Katoomba headspace from a satellite service to a full centre; and
- Conduct an urgent review of needs in other bushfire-affected areas, including boosting online and telephone services.
The Government has not accepted our previous calls to work with states to ensure counselling is available in bushfire-affected schools, and to implement the recommendations of a recent Senate inquiry on the mental health of first responders.
We welcome the Government’s announcements to date, but we are concerned the efforts do not go far enough to meet the needs of every impacted community across Australia.
We are also concerned by gaps in Medicare services in bushfire-affected areas. Telehealth services other than mental health were not included in the Government’s recent expansion, and the Government has also recently cut bulk-billing incentives in 14 areas around Australia, including some bushfire-impacted areas.
There are also gaps in mental health services for young people in bushfire-affected areas.
Dozens of communities across the nation have been ravaged by bushfires in recent months with 33 lives lost, hundreds of injuries and thousands of people traumatised.
The Morrison Government must understand that physical and mental health needs for victims of the bushfire crisis will be ongoing.
Labor will continue to advocate for the health response that those in bushfire affected communities deserve.
FRIDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 2020