The Australian Greens have expressed concern over the future of Aboriginal health programs in the Kimberley, saying the federal budget is a huge setback to commitments to close the gap.
"Tony Abbott's budget has taken away $534 million as he consolidates 150 programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into five. This includes a significant cut of $165.8 in of health programs," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues said today.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health has taken a huge hit in this budget, leading to a great deal of uncertainty about what the government has planned for community and health programs across WA and the Kimberley.
"Aboriginal Medical Services only have a commitment of funding for the next financial year, which creates huge uncertainty. Cuts to the health funding will mean there is less funding to deliver health services, which directly impacts on the health of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley.
"Just last week we heard that amputation due to diabetes is much higher in the Kimberley than else where, highlighting the need for improved health services not cutbacks.
"The introduction of a GP co-payment is very significant, as health services will be forced to choose between absorbing the costs themselves or passing it on to patients. Increasing co-payments will affect people in the community with the poorest health and who are least able to cover increasing costs. Co-payments for medicines will mean that people don't access the treatment they need, further impacting on their health.
"I will be closely examining the impacts of budget cuts on the Kimberley during Senate Estimates next week and hold serious concerns about our ability to Close the Gap in life expectancy and health outcomes within a generation when so much funding is being taken away by Tony Abbott's government," Senator Siewert concluded.