AHCRA was formed in 2003, prompted by the negotiations between Federal and State governments over the 5 year public hospital funding agreements. There was a growing awareness among health stakeholders that Australia’s health care system had for too long been focussed around hospitals, with more overnight beds than many comparable OECD countries. Many health advocates spoke out arguing that the focus of health funding should be on better prevention and early diagnosis, as well as community-based care rather than hospital services.
Then Health Minister in NSW, Craig Knowles, championed this approach with his fellow ministers who agreed to establish a number of “reference groups” to pursue reforms in areas such as mental health, indigenous health and health workforce. After two meetings of the reference groups the Federal Government abandoned the reform agenda and made a financial offer to the States. Health reform advocates were disappointed by this decision.
In response, the executive of the National Hospitals Clinician’s taskforce (Chaired by Professor John Dwyer AO), approached a number of other health organisations to come together to speak with “one voice” on major reform issues. The response to this initiative was overwhelmingly positive and within three weeks the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance (AHCRA) was born and active. A press conference was called to inform the community of the creation of this organisation and outline the reason for its formation: healthcare reform must become an urgent priority for all our governments.
AHCRA held its inaugural national conference on reform in August of 2003, at which the policies needed to provide contemporary Australia with a fair, high quality and economically sustainable health system were debated and decisions published.
Since then, AHCRA has played a significant role in advocating for health care reform in Australia and has actively worked to influence the development and implementation of the health reform agenda. AHCRA undertakes this role through a number of activities including:
- meeting regularly with key federal politicians to advocate for health system reform that reflects AHCRA’s principles;
- providing input into relevant inquiries and reviews;
- making public comments and media statements on key health reform issues;
- holding bi-annual Summits which bring together ACHRA members with other health experts and stakeholders to discuss the current state of health reform;
- developing policy and discussion papers on specific issues relevant to the health reform agenda; and
- partnering with other key groups on specific health reform issues supported by AHCRA, such as improving access to oral health care.
From its inception, AHCRA has had a strong focus on equity and has advocated strongly to reduce current inequities within our community in both access to health care and health status. This focus continues in AHCRA’s work today which also includes recognition of the social determinants of health and the role they play in influencing health status. As the Government progresses the health reform agenda, AHCRA will continue to play a key role in advocating for a fairer, more effective and more equitable system for Australia’s future.