Health minister flies into scandal to herald new year

There's nothing like the resignation of a health minister, even temporarily, to get the year in healthcare off to an interesting start so we thank Sussan Ley for her contribution to shaking the cobwebs out of the old year and giving us a cracking start to the new.

Ms Ley's decision to stand aside on Monday was the right one and, considering the outpouring of public disgust during the week at the culture of entitlement that seems rife in the political class, her decision to resign on Friday was probably the correct one too.

Having observed numerous health and aged care ministers come and go over the years, Pulse+IT believes Ms Ley was far from the worst. She reluctantly presided over the freeze on Medicare rebates but did nothing much to fight it and she was weak in the face of the lobbying might of the community pharmacy and private pathology sectors. However, she generally seemed to listen to the advice of her department and made some of the right calls.

In eHealth, there were major stumbles in her handling of the Medicare payments outsourcing debacle and the announcement of the National Cancer Screening Register tender but she was not on her own there, sharing those stumbles with the Prime Minister.

She continued with her party's policy of supporting the roll-out of the My Health Record and, after she thankfully extricated the aged care portfolio from the clutches of the Department of Social Services, the My Aged Care system. Neither were improved in any measurable way and she raised the ire of the general practice community – again – by supporting the changes to the ePIP, but on balance her tenure did nothing much to progress but also nothing much to damage the march towards digitisation.

Perhaps her greatest failing was when healthcare – or Medicare more correctly – turned out to be the biggest single issue of the 2016 election, during which she pretty much stayed silent. She may have ridden out the travel entitlements scandal but she must have been severely damaged within the party over the near-miss at the election.

Besides Nicola Roxon, the last health minister to last longer than a single election cycle was Tony Abbott, the father of NEHTA who famously declared in 2003 that failure to establish an electronic patient record within five years would be an indictment against the government.

Some wags reckon it might be time for round two.

Tags: Sussan Ley, Tony Abbott

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