Media release: Ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare

28 August 2020

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today released its fourth 2020 ACT Election issue brief on health, calling for investment and reform to ensure Canberrans on low incomes have equitable access to quality and timely healthcare.

Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO, said: “We recognise the important role that Canberra’s health workers have played in protecting the community from COVID-19. As we recover from the pandemic, we must not lose sight of the need for urgent health reforms.

“We welcome the ACT Government’s planned investment in healthcare infrastructure and staff as outlined yesterday in the ACT Jobs and Economic Recovery Plan.

“The ACT needs a commitment from all parties to real increases in spending on frontline health services to meet national standards on waiting times for emergency admissions and elective surgery.

“Stories in the media this week have highlighted the unacceptable wait times to access specialist doctors – including for children.

“Many people cannot afford the cost of specialist and GP appointments. The ACT has some of the lowest rates of bulk billing, a major barrier to accessible healthcare.

“Equitable access to healthcare for those on low incomes or facing other disadvantage is a foundational principle of social justice.

“Until all residents of the ACT including people with disability, people on low incomes, Canberrans from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and people who identify as LGBTIQ+ have timely and affordable access to quality healthcare, our society will remain deeply inequitable.

“ACTCOSS is also calling for a Disability Health Strategy to address the poor health outcomes for people with disability caused by service gaps and a lack of disability-specific health services.

“We also need funding for a range of specific services: a dedicated palliative care ward at the Canberra Hospital; affordable and available sexual and reproductive health services; more sub-acute mental health care; and publicly available pain management services,” Dr Campbell said.

Darlene Cox, Executive Director of Health Consumers’ Association ACT, said: “Our local health system is under pressure to deliver the care our communities need. This is despite the best efforts of staff and management. Canberra is growing and our population has increasing needs for health care.

“Waiting times for many services are not acceptable. Waiting for diagnosis or decisions about treatment not only causes anxiety but diagnostic delays can impact negatively on our health. We need to increase funding for more staff, improve efficiency and explore new ways of improving access to health care.”

Simon Viereck, Executive Officer, Mental Health Community Coalition ACT, said: “In a time of massive change it has never been more important to bridge the gaps in mental health services that people keep falling through.

“Canberra’s diverse population needs a diverse range of supports and not just acute services. A robust, flexible and responsive mental health system helps keep all of us well and participating in our community.”

Find ACTCOSS’s 2020 ACT Election issue brief Better Health here.

Find our other issue briefs at our ACT Election page.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

For more information or comment, please contact

Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.

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