Health spend in Budget gets mixed marks

May 20, 2021 BY

Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West CEO Emma Mahoney.

The Coalition Government is getting mixed marks for its spending on healthcare in the 2021-22 Budget, which allocates $121.4 billion in the next financial year and $503 billion over the next four years.

Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson is talking up the $353.9 million over the next four years earmarked specifically for women’s health, but Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West says the budget “fell short of a truly gender equal recovery”.

Health spending in the budget includes:

  • $17.7 billion over five years for aged care reforms
  • $13.2 billion over four years for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and
  • $2.3 billion to deliver expanded services for mental health.

Speaking just after the budget was released, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association chief executive officer Alison Verhoeven said the extra $5 billion this year and in future years was an acknowledgement of the importance of a health-led recovery for the society and economy.

“Many of the health and aged care budget announcements made tonight had already been put on the table – and there’s been strong feedback from stakeholders that this is a good start, but this cannot just be a once-off cash splash before an election.”

She said the $17.7 billion commitment was about half the amount recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality.

“It will make a difference, but attention will be required to ensure this investment makes a difference to the care of older people, not just to profit margins for private providers.”

Senator Henderson said the funding in the budget would help women and girls across the state.

“Among these key measures, we will see $100.4 million for improvements to cervical and breast cancer screening programs, $26.9 million to provide support for people with eating disorders and their families and $6.6 million for Breast Cancer Network Australia to operate its helpline, rural and regional information forums and extending its consumer representative training program.

“To help expectant parents, we are also investing $19.3 million for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme listing of Oripro (progesterone) to prevent women going into premature labour, $47.4 million to support the mental health and wellbeing of new and expectant parents, as well as $13.7 million for the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance to reduce pre-term birth rates.”

Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West and its peak body for gender equality, Gen Vic, were less impressed with the announced measures.

Their Gender Equality Scorecard gave the Coalition a D- on gender-responsive budgeting (with total investment on targeted gender equality and women’s initiatives rising from less than 0.03 per cent in October 2020 to less than 0.6 per cent now), a D+ on gender equal job creation and stimulus, a C- on boosting women’s health services, an E on creating a caring economy for parents and a C for ending all forms of violence against women.