29/08/2014 - 13:44

Medical research donations under threat

29/08/2014 - 13:44

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The proposed changes to Medicare have spooked many who donate to medical research, a recent survey has found.

Medical research donations under threat
DOLLAR VALUE: Peter Leedman is urging donors to retain their support for medical research. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The director of the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research has expressed concern at a report suggesting the proposed Medicare co-payment could lead to a 40 per cent drop in donations in Western Australia.

Peter Leedman told Business News that, while the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund to which the government had linked the $7 co-payment plan was a visionary idea, it wouldn’t provide any funds for many years.

Budget papers state the fund will distribute about $1 billion a year into medical research from 2022-23.

The co-payment idea has few friends in the Senate among those on the non-government benches, however, and seems unlikely to pass through parliament in its current form.

Many in the wider community also hold reservations, according to the survey by Research Australia, which found four in 10 existing donors would be deterred from offering their support if the co-payment went ahead.

A decline in donations of that magnitude would provide a significant hit to the revenue of research bodies in WA, such as the Harry Perkins Institute.

The institute received more than 31 per cent of its total $31.6 million revenue in 2013 from donations and fundraising.

It has the largest percentage of revenue from donations and fundraising out of the three major medical research institutions – Telethon Kids Institute secured 20.5 per cent of its overall revenue from philanthropic sources in 2013, while such contributions accounted for 4 per cent of revenue at the Lions Eye Institute.

A 40 per cent cut in donations would lead to a drop of 12 per cent in total revenue at the Harry Perkins Institute, based on the 2013 statistics.

Professor Leedman said the institute had enjoyed strong support for fundraising events such as the SunSuper Ride to Conquer Cancer, which raised $5.2 million last year, on the back of a strategy to increase revenue from philanthropy.

However, he said donors were demanding more from the organisations they supported.

“[Philanthropic] money is still there, but people are being more careful with the way they spend it,” said Professor Leedman, who supported the government’s plan for future research needs.

“Only long-term and sustainable investment will ensure we can make medical research breakthroughs that result in the highest quality care for all Australians.

“The Future Fund is a visionary idea to create a growing amount of money that won’t be subject to the whims of the government of the day.”

He said it was concerning that four in 10 existing donors would be less likely to contribute should the co-payment go ahead.

“The fund won’t provide any funds for research for many, many years and [it] will be providing much needed extra cash for research.

“We need donations, they are our bread and butter, if donations decrease it affects our ability to keep the lights on and the power running for critical experiments.” 

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