Health priorities: COAG Health Council

Paul Hayes

3/08/2018 11:51:08 AM

Australian health ministers met in Alice Springs this week to discuss a number of important national healthcare items.

The COAG Health Council meeting was hosted by Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles. (Image: Lucy Hughes Jones)
The COAG Health Council meeting was hosted by Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles. (Image: Lucy Hughes Jones)

Federal, state and territory health ministers came together in Alice Springs on Wednesday 1 August at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council to discuss a range of national health issues. 
The meeting included a roundtable discussion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to examine how governments can work with this community to improve health outcomes and work towards health equity.
Here’s a round-up of what was discussed:
National collaboration to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The ministers held a strategic discussion on national collaboration to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They covered the impacts of potentially preventable rates of eye disease, ear disease, kidney disease, crusted scabies, rheumatic heart disease, human T-lymphotropic Virus Type 1 (HTLV–1) and mental health.
Digital health
All jurisdictions reaffirmed their support of a national opt-out approach to the My Health Record, also noting clinical advice about the benefits of My Health Record and expressing strong support for My Health Record to support patient’s health.
The ministers acknowledged concerns in the community and noted actions proposed to provide community confidence, including strengthening privacy and security provisions of My Health Record.
Mandatory reporting requirements by treating practitioners
The ministers approved a targeted consultation process for amendments to mandatory reporting requirements by treating practitioners.
According to COAG, the consultation process will seek feedback on proposed legislation that strikes a balance between ensuring health practitioners can seek help when needed, while also protecting the public from harm. The consultation process will involve professional bodies representing each registered health profession, consumer groups, national boards and professional indemnity insurers.
The results of the targeted consultation process will inform a bill to be presented to the Queensland Parliament as soon as possible.
Western Australia’s current arrangements will continue and the state is not included in this process.
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
The ministers reportedly welcomed advice that 15 health practitioner national boards, their accreditation councils and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) have partnered with leaders in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector to sign a National Registration and Accreditation Scheme Statement of Intent to achieve equity in health outcomes.
This joint commitment is designed to ensure a culturally safe health workforce, increasing participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the registered health professions.
Private patients in public hospitals
Ministers agreed to commission an independent review of a range of factors regarding utilisation of private health insurance in public hospitals to report ‘as soon as possible’, but no later than 31 December 2018.
National approach to hearing health
With 3.6 million Australians currently experiencing hearing loss, ministers agreed to further consider a national approach to hearing health following the Commonwealth’s response to the House of Representatives inquiry report, ‘Still waiting to be heard’, expected later this year.
Public dental funding arrangements 
The current National Partnership Agreement on Public Dental Services for Adults will end on 30 June 2019, and state and territory public provider access to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule will end on 31 December 2019.
Ministers agreed that securing sustainable and fair future funding arrangements is critical to providing timely access to public dental care. Ministers agreed to commence formal negotiations to achieve fair, long-term public dental funding arrangements, including extension of access to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule.
Mutual recognition of mental health orders 
Ministers discussed the issue of ensuring continuity of care for mental health consumers moving between jurisdictions with different legislation. They agreed that work to ensure interoperability of mental health legislation between states and territories, as part of the fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, must be prioritised.
Continuity of Care for consumers of mental health services
The ministers discussed and agreed to South Australia’s proposal that the COAG Health Council monitor the ongoing transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) of mental health patients, and to identify any emerging services gaps that need to be addressed in order to ensure continuity of support.
Obesity – Limiting the impact of unhealthy food and drinks on children
The Queensland Health Minister Dr Steven Miles led a discussion on actions to improve children’s diets and prevent child obesity, with a focus on healthcare settings, schools, sport and recreation, food promotion and food regulation.
Health departments were tasked with developing national minimum nutrition standards for food and drink supply in public healthcare facilities.
Implementation of National Cancer Work Plan – Additional Optimal Cancer Care Pathway
The ministers endorsed the Optimal Cancer Care Pathway (OCP) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which is the first OCP under the National Cancer Work Plan that specifically addresses the needs of a cultural group.
The OCP for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was developed collaboratively by Cancer Australia in partnership with the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and Cancer Council Victoria.
Public disclosure to support hospital and clinical comparisons
Ministers agreed to commit to create a data and reporting environment that increases patient choice through greater public disclosure of hospital and clinician performance and information.
National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–30 and National Men’s Health Strategy 2020–30
The Commonwealth is developing a National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–30 and a National Men’s Health Strategy 2020–30, both of which are expected to be finalised and launched in early 2019.
Ministerial Advisory Committee on Out-of-Pocket Costs
It was agreed that the Commonwealth release a detailed report of the activity of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Out-of-Pocket Costs, including specific fee transparency options, before the next COAG Health Council meeting.
More detailed information is available on the COAG Health Council website.

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