Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and former Health Minister, Peter Dutton, announcing changes to Medicare

The Prime Minister and outgoing Federal Minister for Health, Peter Dutton, announced their vision for "A Strong and Sustainable Medicare" on 9 December 2014. The new package is designed to improve the quality of care for patients while significantly reducing government funding for GP services. 

By increasing the minimum length of a standard consultation from 6 to 10 minutes the program will save Medicare an estimated $400 million per year. The rebate will also be reduced by $5 for adults. However, the government has listened to the views of the community and concession card holders will be exempt. GPs will be able to charge a $5 co-payment to those who do not have a concession card, in compensation for the reduced rebate. Further savings will be achieved by freezing medical rebates for 4 years. 

Northern Rivers residents John and Helen Niven with calendars of Nepal that they produce to support their volunteer dental work in the Himalayan country.

Retired dentist John Niven and his ‘practice manager’ wife Helen, a former staff member of then-North Coast Area Health Service are back in action, producing a new calendar about the fabled yet desperately poor nation of Nepal and preparing to take another trip there.

Unlike most foreign visitors, the Nivens will not be joy-walking in the Himalayan mountains, let alone tackling its snow-capped peaks. Nor is it their aim to savour the fascinating mix of Buddhist, Hindu and Tibetan cultures, although their cameras will be kept at the ready.

Instead they will return with suitcases stuffed with dental supplies on a self-appointed mission to bring oral health care to rural dwellers seldom able to access treatment.

Australian Government’s new Issues Paper examines the roles and responsibilities of federal and state governments in the provision of Australian healthcare.

A newly-released federal government ‘Issues Paper’ on the provision of healthcare in Australia concludes that, “Currently, our health care arrangements do not work well for Australians with complex and chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cancer and mental illness,” attributing this to the lack of “a single overarching ‘health system’ in Australia to provide this care.”

Woodburn GP Dr Chanchal Marik

Long-serving Woodburn GP Dr Chanchal Marik will spend his last working day at his surgery just before Christmas. After serving the local community for 35 years and spending many months trying unsuccessfully to sell his practice, he feels there is no other option than closing the doors, an act he will undertake with sadness.

Vahid Saberi and Dr Dan Ewald presenting to the Senate Select Committee on Health in Lismore.

The Senate Select Committee on Health’s interim report on Australia’s health system has described as a “fallacy” the Abbott government’s claims about the effectiveness of the Medicare system.

The committee, whose members are drawn from the Coalition, Labor and the Greens, is engaged in an Australia-wide series of site visits and hearings, which included Lismore on 15 September

Comments in the interim report released this month are tuned to the nation’s current health debate: “Since coming to power the Abbott Government has repeatedly called into question the sustainability of Medicare … The evidence given to this committee and documented in this report reveals the fallacy of such claims, particularly with regard to GPs and the Medicare Benefits Scheme.”