Catherine Beadnell, editor of the Australian Nursing Journal, adds to the ongoing Croakey debate about the unfairness built into the Australian health system:
“In response to Mark Ragg’s column I think the system is unfair and the Howard Government’s efforts to reduce the Medicare burden on Treasury by propping up private health insurance has led to a widening of the health care gap between wealthy and low income Australians.
While I am not familiar with Mark’s research in detail, I am sure his findings on survival rates for people with cancer reflect a whole range of the problems inherent in a health care system that claims to be universal but is much more accessible and effective if you are wealthy.
People on higher incomes who are diagnosed with cancer can choose a highly regarded specialist who will provide individualised care and treatment while a person in the public hospital system may see a different specialist each time they attend an appointment.
People on low incomes may also have difficulties making appointments due to transport or financial constraints. Access to oncology services for people in rural and remote areas is even more difficult with the added burden of having to travel, sometimes great distances, to attend outpatient appointments.
Improving access to health services overall and in cancer treatment specifically requires a willingness for bold health reform that might include redirecting the massive amounts of public money spent on subsidising private health funds back into the public system.
We need more doctors and nurses and we need to encourage health professionals to work in well resourced rural and remote health services. Providing quality and accessible health services is surely an essential role of government in a so called civilized society.”