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Health reform national cabinet’s first priority: PM

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Health will be the main priority for federal, state and territory leaders as the prime minister plans to overhaul Australia’s ailing Medicare system.

Anthony Albanese met with premiers and chief ministers for the first national cabinet meeting of the year which he described as collegial and collaborative.

During the meeting, leaders discussed the findings of a review by the Medicare task force on measures to improve healthcare affordability and accessibility, support people with chronic health conditions and take pressure off hospitals.

Mr Albanese said he would act on the recommendations from the report.

“We all understand the challenge … for improving our primary health care networks, how that interacts with the hospital system and there’s absolutely a commitment to work on policy outcomes as the starting point,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“The key going forward is to better integrate the systems so that patients (have) better health care and we know that the earlier the care is provided, the cheaper that care will be.”

The prime minister said better policy, not necessarily more funding, was key to fixing issues in the Medicare system.

“We all agree … part of the issues are people turning up at emergency departments because they don’t have other options. We need to improve primary health care (and) we need to improve access to GP services,” he said.

“The task is to continue to talk about the bigger picture reform but also not sit back and wait. We’re investing right now.”

Mr Albanese pointed to recent announcements in Tasmania and Western Australia to improve access to primary health care.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said more money wasn’t necessarily the solution to improving the health system.

“Let’s put patients at the centre of that system, integrate the networks in a better and more efficient way and then work out the funding arrangements off the back of it,” he said.

“If you start with funding, you won’t get the outcomes.”

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas earlier said ideas such as pharmacists being able to prescribe medications for common ailments should be considered.

“I don’t think we should be discouraging organisations … from constructive suggestions,” he said.

“Provided they are clinically safe, I think there should be an appetite to embrace new, innovative ideas that keep people out of our hospitals.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews agreed the problems with Medicare were not all about money and needed a national approach rather than each state working in isolation.

“The most important thing here is that good ideas and common sense reform drives this first and foremost and we can fund it appropriately after that,” he said.

“We can, out of this meeting, have a shared common purpose and a statement that says health reform is top of the list for us, both as individual jurisdictions and as a national cabinet.

“It all starts with the acknowledgement that this system is broken and we can do so much better.”

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