ۺŮ

The Federal Budget: What It Means for Women’s Health

ۺŮ has summarised how the 2024-25 Australian federal budget allocations will impact women’s healthcare.

ۺŮ

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Updated
15 May 2024
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The Australian Government handed down the federal budget on Tuesday, including commitments dedicated exclusively to women. The women’s budget details how the government intends to improve the lives of women who make up 51% of the current population yet face gender-based systemic disadvantages in a myriad of areas. Here’s an overview of what the federal health budget has allocated which will impact women’s healthcare.

Funding for Chronic Pelvic Pain Conditions

  • $49.1 million has been pledged to help women access longer appointments of 45 minutes for complex gynaecological conditions such as persistent pelvic pain, and endometriosis. Two new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items have been added providing a higher fee for initial and subsequent consultations, as well as an extended 60-minute MBS item for GPs.
  • While this is a step in the right direction, investment in education and training for health care providers working in clinical centres for pain management will be required to support effective assessment of care solutions.

MBS Review & Addition of Medicines to the PBS  

  • There will be a review of MBS items to address . This will include items for long-acting contraception, and diagnostic imaging. Rebates for many common pathology tests, including for infertility/pregnancy and tissue pathology, will rise each year for the first time in 25 years ($174.1 million)
  • New medicines used in the treatment of endometrial cancer have been added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Dostarlimab (Jemperli®) will be listed for the first time, in combination with chemotherapy. Without subsidy, patients might pay more than $139,000 for one course of treatment.
  • ۺŮ highlighted the at its recentRoundtable on Improving Access to Medications & Devices in Pregnancy and Women’s Health. The College would also welcome the addition of Ryeqo – a drug recently approved in Australia for use in treating endometriosis – to the PBS to improve equity of access to treatment options.

Resources to Address Gaps in Women’s Healthcare

  • A $5.2 million investment in training for rural and remote healthcare professionals on the insertion and removal of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) has been pledged to ensure women can access LARCs if that is their preferred option, regardless of where they live.
  • $12.5 million will be provided to address period poverty in First Nations communities by delivering free period products.
  • The sexual and reproductive telehealth MBS item has been made permanent which will mean that women will continue to receive support accessing affordable abortion services, with a particular focus on those in rural and remote areas.
  • $50 million has been allocated to establish a new scholarship fund to support the qualification of more nurse practitioners and endorsed midwives who will be able to prescribe medications, provide referrals, and perform device insertions. The initiative aims to enhance workforce capacity for these healthcare providers contributing to multidisciplinary maternity care teams. ۺŮ emphasises the importance of all relevant healthcare practitioners working collaboratively for the benefit of women, babies and their families.  
  • The introduction of Commonwealth Prac Payments in teaching, nursing, midwifery, and social work will assist students undertaking mandatory placements to manage associated costs.  

Investment in Health & Medical Research

  • A package of $1.89 billion will be invested in health and medical research overall, with women’s health identified as one of three key priority areas eligible to receive more funding for new research.
  • An immediate investment of $53.6 million over 4 years will target research into women’s health including menopause, pregnancy loss, infertility, and sexual reproductive health.
  • Underrepresentation of women and pregnant people in medical research was a crucial issue identified at the 2024 Women’s Health Summit, and more significant funding will be required to rectify this.

Improving Education, Support and Awareness for Miscarriage

  • $7 million has been promised to aid awareness, education, and support for miscarriage for women, their families, and healthcare professionals.
  • The budget commits a further $6.5 million for a scoping study of miscarriages and sexual reproductive health by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.  

Support for Preventing Violence Against Women & Children

  • Additional funding has been promised to support women facing gender-based violence. As a critical issue impacting women’s health, this allocation underscores the urgent need to address violence against women and children. See more on the ways in which ۺŮ is addressing gender-based violence.

ۺŮ is encouraged by the budget initiatives announced today, but warns against underinvestment in regional, rural, and remote maternity care. The College continues to advocate for funding for multidisciplinary training in maternity care and procedural training for GP obstetricians and looks forward to continuing dialogue with the government in addressing these critical areas of need.

Dr Gillian Gibson, ۺŮ President said: “While it’s promising to see women’s health as a focus within the Australian federal budget, it’s undeniable that further investment will be needed to make tangible progress. The government should be commended for continuing to focus on women’s health needs, but at the same time we should all recognise that the systemic gender-bias embedded in institutions like the MBS cannot be unwound in one budget or with one announcement. Sustained focus is required.”


For media enquiries
Bec McPhee
Head of Advocacy & Communication
0413 258 166
bmcphee@ranzcog.edu.au

CATEGORIES
Advocacy Women’s health

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