Transcript of Doorstop COAG Health Council, Brisbane
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's doorstop at COAG Health Council, Brisbane regarding COAG Health Council outcomes; the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan; support for doctors and nurses mental health; hospital funding; same-sex marriage
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
4 August 2017
Topics: COAG Health Council outcomes; The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan; support for doctors and nurses mental health; hospital funding; same-sex marriage
Today was a huge breakthrough in terms of mental health. The Fifth National Mental Health Plan was approved by the states.
What this is about is enormous progress on suicide prevention. It has actually become the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, so a real focus on suicide prevention.
In particular, the focus on what happens when people are discharged from hospital, the group in Australia that are most likely to take their own lives.
We actually know not just the group, but the very individuals who are most at risk. That’s an enormous step.
The second thing here is, as part of that plan, a focus on eating disorders, and it is a still-hidden issue. In 2017, the hidden issue of eating disorders, of anorexia and bulimia, and the prevalence and the danger of it is still dramatically understated in Australia.
The reality is that this is a silent killer and particularly women can be caught up for years and years, and so there’s a mutual determination, a universal determination to progress on eating disorders, and that will now be a central part of the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.
And also, as part of that, we’ve included, at the Commonwealth’s request today, a real focus on early intervention services for young people under 16. Pat McGorry has referred to it as CATs for Kids, meaning Crisis Assessment Teams, and the opportunity.
And this is a really important step because, for many families, when they have a crisis, there’s nowhere to turn. This is a way through. So those are all enormous steps forward.
The other mental health area where we’ve made big, big progress is on allowing doctors to seek routine mental health treatment.
There’s an agreement by all of the states and territories to work with the Commonwealth on giving doctors a pathway so as they can seek routine mental health treatment without being reported to the professional bodies.
What has led to the increased focus on eating disorders? Has there been an uptick in the number of suicides resulting from that, or has there been an uptick in the number of cases?
No, this has been silently moving along. It’s a personal focus. There are those that I have known, and then when we looked the numbers shortly after coming in, and dealt with organisations such as the Butterfly Foundation, they explained that it’s been a high level issue with the worst rate of loss of life amongst any mental health condition.
And so that’s a combination both of suicide, but also of loss of life due to physical collapse. And so it’s what I would regard as a personal priority from my own experience with others, but then the advocacy of groups like Butterfly Foundation has finally landed. It should’ve happened earlier, but it’s happening on our watch now.
That would be my next question, is that I’m sure advocacy groups will say this is great that it’s happened, but it’s taken the Government so long. Why is it that you’re focussing on it now as opposed to…?
I guess, I’ve only just become Minister. So from day one, this is one of the things I’ve wanted to do, and I’m really, personally, deeply pleased that we’ve made this enormous progress.
So I would say this, I can’t speak for the past, it is overdue, but on our watch collectively we’ve taken a huge step forward today.
Then the last thing is I’ve seen some reports that Queensland and Victoria may have been upset that some of their statistical anomalies were referred to what’s called IHPA (Independent Hospital Pricing Authority).
The reason why is that some of their figures simply didn’t pass the pub test.
The independent authority will assess them, but when you have 4000 per cent growth in one year in some services, 3300 per cent growth in some years in other services, then it would be negligent and irresponsible not to review them.
It may be the case that there was a more than 40-fold increase in some services, but the only sensible thing for the Commonwealth to do is to review it.
But our funding goes up each year every year at a faster rate than the states’ funding, and it’s gone up by $7.7 billion dollars since the current health agreement with the states was struck.
Is that, sorry, relating to private health insurance, or is that something separate?
No, that’s just in relation to, a couple of the states lodged claims for massive growth in individual items.
Thank you. So was there a directive given today regarding private health policies to the states? Was that something that was discussed or something that …?
Our paper was noted, and the states will respond. So we’ve invited the states to respond, they’ll respond individually.
And regarding that mental health plan, besides their new focus on eating disorders, how is it different from previous mental health plans?
So, a much greater focus on suicide prevention, a much greater focus on eating disorders, and a much greater focus on care for young children under 16.
Is that something that you can give more specific details about? You’re saying there’s a much greater focus, but is there any specific information about what that would mean?
As part of the good faith, the Commonwealth, I’ve written to the head of what’s called the Medical Benefits Schedule Review, so the Medicare item review, Professor Bruce Robinson and asked him and their team to consider, for the first time, specific additional treatment, an additional treatment item and what would be appropriate for eating disorders.
Okay, sure. Can I also ask, before I let you go, what do you make of the same-sex marriage talk that’s been dominating the news this week? Where do you stand?
Sure. So, I’ll leave it for the party room.
I’m sorry, but of course it’s going to come.
No, of course you’ve got to ask it. I understand. I’ll leave it for the party room. I know there’ll be discussions next week, so out of respect to the party room I won’t pre-empt those discussions.
Do you anticipate those discussions may become a little heated?
No, I’m confident that they’ll be carried out in a very collegiate manner.
There’s been talk that some MPs are planning to roll the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, if this does get underway. What do you make of that?
I’d use one word, codswallop.