Hunt wins health portfolio, Wyatt gets aged care and indigenous health

Former environment and industry minister Greg Hunt has been appointed as Minister for Health and Minister for Sport, with assistant minister Ken Wyatt elevated to a full post as Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health.

The latter remains in the outer ministry with Mr Hunt representing aged care in Cabinet. David Gillespie, a gastroenterologist, will continue to serve in the portfolio as assistant minister for health, with responsibility for rural health.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was forced into a reshuffle due to the resignation of former Health Minister Sussan Ley over the ongoing travel expenses scandal.

While another former Health Minister in Tony Abbott was mentioned as a possible replacement, Mr Turnbull has taken a minimal approach, with Mr Hunt's Industry, Innovation and Science portfolio going to Arthur Sinodinos.

Mr Turnbull said in a statement that Mr Hunt has strong policy, analytical and communication skills developed over a long front bench career.

“During his time as Environment Minister he demonstrated an ability to grapple with extremely complex policy issues, engage a diverse range of stakeholders and interest groups including state and territory governments,” he said.

Australian Medical Association vice-president Tony Bartone told ABC Radio National before the announcement that whoever is appointed needed to get right down to business.

“What we really need in terms of an incoming new Health Minister, is a person with vision, a person who understands the concept of the investment and the return on investment that health expenditure is,” Dr Bartone said.

“It's not just a sunk cost. It does invest in the social capital and the economic capital of the community. It does have a return on investment and we need a forward-thinking person with a plan, and able to communicate that plan back into Cabinet, able to communicate and speak with all the various stakeholders and able to meet regularly with the people that are the frontline of delivering that care to the community.”

Dr Bartone said Mr Hunt had done “exceedingly well in his previous portfolios” – he was responsible for the scrapping of the carbon tax but Australia has recently seen a rise in carbon emissions – but he would be confronted with the “primacy” of removing the freeze on Medicare.

“The freeze is putting pressure on access to care, especially for our most vulnerable,” Dr Bartone said. “And it's not just general practice consults, it's all medical practices that are under pressure here. All medical services are under pressure.

“It's putting pressure even on public hospitals, it's putting pressure on private health expenditure as well. We need to be clear that this is the number one thing that the government still needs to look at.”

Mr Hunt said in a statement that he “believes deeply” in the importance of Medicare and that the government had a “rock solid” commitment to the fundamental role that Medicare plays in the health system.

He also mentioned that both his mother and wife were nurses and he looked forward to working with nurses, doctors, researchers and all healthcare professionals.

Posted in Australian eHealth

Tags: Sussan Ley, Greg Hunt, Ken Wyatt

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