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Concerns raised over Treasury task

THE Treasury department’s role in the health reform process has been questioned by the medical lobby.

AMA State president Brent Donovan believes treasury’s involvement reflects a fundamentally flawed approach to reform.

“At the moment the equation is led by Treasury,” Dr Donovan said.

“It says how much can we afford. At the moment Treasury dictates it.

“We should be doing it the other way around, saying: what do we need for health?

“And, accepting budgets are not unlimited, therefore there has to be a prioritisation.”

The department of treasury and finance is represented on the State Government’s health reform committee by under treasurer John Langoulant.

A second economist on the committee is Rita Saffioti, director of the economic policy unit in the Department of Premier & Cabinet.

The three other members of the committee are chairman Mick Reid, health department director general Mike Daube, and health minister Jim McGinty’s chief of staff, Danny Cloghan.

Dr Donovan also challenged State Government projections about the likely increase in health spending over the coming decade.

The Government estimates that health spending will rise over the next 10 years from 25 per cent of the State budget to 35 per cent.

“Those figures about 25 per cent to 35 per cent are garbage,” Dr Donovan said. “The trend rate is not quite as much as that.”

The role of treasury was also questioned by Simon Towler, a former AMA State president and current deputy chair of the Clinical Senate.

Dr Towler believes there is broad acceptance of the need for reform.

“The cynicism exists because people are concerned that the involvement of treasury will lead to prescriptive outcomes rather than consultative outcomes,” he said.

Mr Daube defended treasury’s role.

“There are pluses and minuses to having treasury involved in this process,” Mr Daube said.

“We’ve got the reality that we need to work with treasury because we need their support and I think there are great advantages in having treasury involved in this process.

“Our treasury colleagues are getting a much broader grasp on health issues than they would otherwise have had, and second, when it comes through, there will be treasury involvement in the ownership of the approach and directions we want to take.”

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