Emeritus Professor Kerry Goulston, who has been active in the Hospital Reform Group in NSW, has welcomed the NHHRC’s interim report.
“It will hopefully play an important role in a full public debate about the future of Australian healthcare,” he says.
“This is long overdue. The community need to get involved at all levels and the media should facilitate this The question is – how can the media do this?”
Goulston has raised an interesting question, and I’m not sure how it should be answered. Much of the media coverage of the NHHRC report has been dominated by the predictable vested interests, with the AMA and Australian Dental Association featuring prominently.
In a sense you can’t blame the media for going back to the usual suspects; they have loud voices and know how to pitch their messages to meet the media’s needs.
Governments have generally not invested much effort in developing and supporting a voice for the community in health debates.
And many of those organisations you’d hope might speak up for the community’s interests are often disappointingly timid. Either because they rely on government funding and patronage, or because they don’t want to upset the power-brokers, whether they be in the bureaucracies or the professions.
But getting back to Goulston’s question: how can the media do a better job of exploring the community’s interests when it comes to complex issues like health reform?
One idea might be for media organisations to run their own citizen’s juries to explore some of these issues. They would provide plenty of colour and drama – and a welcome change of focus from the oh-so predictable comments from the usual crowd.
Any other ideas?