Belmont Medicare rally opposes Abbott health budget

Source: Newcastle Herald

THE Abbott Government’s planned changes to health funding came under attack at a rally in Belmont on Saturday.

An estimated 500 people attended the 11am rally that marched from Belmont shopping centre to the foreshore, where a number of speakers spoke on a range of health related issues. 

Labor federal MPs and state ALP candidates Jodie Harrison and Yasmin Catley were joined by pensioner advocate Diedre Ham and Jake Howell from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association in condemning the funding model unveiled in the federal budget.

Shortland MP Jill Hall told the crowd the changes were an attack on Medicare and universal healthcare, focusing on what the government describes as a ‘$7 co-payment’ but which Labor labels a ‘GP tax’ that it says would cost people in the Hunter more than $28million a year.

‘‘The $7 GP tax is a cruel and brutal measure that will hurt families and lead to longer-term health problems over time,’’ Ms Hall said.

Member for Charlton Pat Conroy said in addition to the new GP fee and increases in the cost of prescription medicines the budget would rip $220million out of the region’s public hospitals. 

‘‘This will severely impact emergency waiting times and frontline services,’’ Mr Conroy said.

‘‘It leaves a disgraceful funding black hole and will put even more pressure on our hospital system.’’

Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon said the funding changes would result in bigger health problems over time.

‘‘We should not be discouraging people from visiting a doctor by charging a new GP tax,’’ she said.

‘‘We should be encouraging preventative health measures and supporting people when they are sick.

 At one point the crowd, which contained a large proportion of pension-aged citizens, was asked to raise their hand if it was their first political protest. A clear majority of hands were raised.

Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon called for a united front to oppose the budget and save Medicare.

‘‘There is no more important responsibility for government than to provide access to affordable health care,’ he said.

‘‘The government’s attack on Medicare does just the opposite.’’

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