As the nation lies in waiting for an election decision to be made, the sector should stay strong, keep the faith, and keep up the political campaigning for aged care reform.

Former National Health and Hospitals Reform Commissioner, Professor Justin Beilby, motivated the sector to continue lobbying the government for more funding, a better integrated health system and wide-sweeping structural reform at the Catholic Health Australia (CHA) National Conference in Adelaide yesterday.

In a one-on-one interview following his presentation,  Professor Beilby said that despite the election-weariness of the nation, now is not the time to give up.

Aged care reform “is a complex and difficult debate. But you can’t let it be derailed by a move to [another] government”.

Last Saturday’s federal government election resulted in a hung parliament and a ‘no clear winner’ outcome. Both the Gillard government and the Tony Abbott-led Coalition are now vying for the support of the independents to swing the axis of power in their favour.

“…If the independents don’t have aged care as a priority then that is a concern.”

Professor Beilby said that the future government must build upon the momentum of change that was set upon under Rudd’s historic COAG health reform.

“The one thing that Rudd did well was to build a conversation around health reform. The aged care sector needs reform. That is the bottom line.”

He said that the implementation of an electronic health record will prove to be an essential policy, regardless of whether the government will be led by Gillard or Abbott.

Speaking of the Liberal’s policy to abandon the policy, Professor Beilby said: “The electronic health record is an absolute priority of having a health reform policy. They must embrace this if they come in power.

“If they are going to drop it they should reconsider that. You can’t have health reform without an electronic health record.

“…The key point is to make sure that the government pressure continues around the development of an e-health record.”

What the sector needs, he said, is more funding, regional flexibility, greater accountability and performance measurement and a larger, well-trained workforce.

The sector must be reformed as a matter of priority and the future leaders should continue to work in partnership with the sector to establish a feasible solution.

“It’s really about clarifying the direction of the reforms that bring people together, and around a debate that does not bring people around a fractured solution.

“There needs to be more lobbying from the sector in this period of time, in this difficult political climate. We need to keep moving the debate forward.

“The key thing is to remain positive about reform…Regardless of whoever it is that gets into power, make sure the lobbying continues.”

Professor Justin Beilby is the executive dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Adelaide University and the former National Health and Hospitals Reform Commissioner.

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