Oral and mental health the missing link in health agreement: ACOSS

14 February 2011

Australia’s peak community sector body today welcomed the COAG agreements on health as an indication of progress towards reform by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the states and territories. However ACOSS remains concerned about outstanding areas of reform, specifically improved access to primary care including in the crucial areas of oral and mental health.

“Obviously a deal is important to ensure progress towards health reform,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.

“There is no doubting that things such as moving to a single funder, a new focus and investment in primary care, and more efficiency and accountability measures are all positive steps forward. However no health agreement can be complete without dealing with the areas where the majority of people need to access services to stay well, namely through effective, community-based primary care.”

“In particular, there are glaring omissions in the areas of improved mental health and timely and accessible oral health services. These must be priorities if we are talking about reform of our health system as a whole.

“ACOSS believes that the structure of health funding is important as it remains one of the drivers of inequity in our health system. Even with an over-reliance on private health insurance and an expectation that consumers contribute to out of pocket costs for many core services, many people are still unable to access timely, quality services when they need them.

“But the reforms that will make a difference to people missing out on good health, particularly those living on low incomes or in communities isolated from timely services, are about adequate, effective community-based services. People living in rural and remote areas of Australia face even greater disadvantages when it comes to accessing timely, affordable and effective health care.

“ACOSS calls for the community sector, including specialist health and general services, to be engaged directly in the health reform process. Many of our community organisations are already engaging with people unable to access proper health services. Let’s build on the community sector’s capacity and expertise in working with people on low incomes and in disadvantaged communities,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas – 0419 626 155