Budget 2009-10: Health Overview

The 2009-10 Budget contains significant policy announcements affecting the health industry. Key details regarding new investments in health infrastructure, a new cancer care system, e-health, access to essential medicines and Indigenous health care are detailed below.

Infrastructure and hospitals $1.5 billion has been allocated to upgrade key health infrastructure around Australia. Major projects to be undertaken include:


  • $96.4 million to redevelop the Nepean Hospital;
  • $17.6 million to build a Clinical School and Research and Education Centre at the University of Western Sydney – part of the School of Medicine at the Blacktown Hospital; and
  • $27 million for an integrated district health service in Narrabri, bringing together hospital, primary and community health services.


  • $120 million for a new principal blood manufacturing facility in Melbourne for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service; and
  • $13 million to build a state-of-the-art tissue banking facility for the Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria.


  • $255.7 million for a new State Rehabilitation Centre at Perth’s Fiona Stanley Hospital;
  • $180.1 million for a metropolitan hospital for the Midland area in Perth – to replace and expand services currently provided out of Swan District Hospital;
  • $8.6 million for an expansion of renal dialysis services in the Kimberley; and
  • $7.9 million to replace the current paediatric ward at the Broome Hospital.


  • $250 million to expand Townsville Hospital;
  • $104 million for the Oral Health Centre in Brisbane, which will treat 17,000 patients a year; and
  • $76 million to expand Rockhampton Hospital.


  • $200 million for the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute to be built at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.


  • $27.8 million for a NT Medical School – medical students will be able to complete their full medical degree without having to leave the NT;
  • $13.6 million to build a new Emergency Department on the grounds of the Alice Springs Hospital and relocate the Medical Imaging Department; and
  • $18.6 million to build an accommodation complex of 50 units on the grounds of the Royal Darwin Hospital for patients and carers.


  • $40 million to create an Acute Medical and Surgical Service Unit at Launceston General Hospital.

New Cancer Care System The Government will invest $1.3 billion over six years in improving Australia’s cancer infrastructure in the following ways:

  • Two Integrated Cancer Centres to provide state-of-the-art cancer treatment combined with cutting edge research, focused especially on treating rare and complex cancers which need national centres to provide appropriate experience for quality care.
  • The new Lifehouse Sydney Cancer Centre at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney will receive $100 million.
  • The Parkville Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Melbourne will receive $426.1 million.
  • $70 million to expand the Garvan St Vincent’s Cancer Centre in Sydney to enhance its world-class research capacity.
  • $560 million to build a network of up to ten regional cancer centres and associated accommodation centres. Centres will be selected following a national tender process open to both the public and private sectors – and may establish new – or enhance existing – regional centres. This will include a centre in Canberra to service the local community and south-east NSW.
  • $120 million to replace BreastScreen Australia’s equipment with state-of-the-art digital mammography equipment. This will replace 205 existing analogue machines around Australia.
  • The Government will also make a range of other investments to improve cancer care, research and support for patients:
  • $2.6 million for the Building Cancer Support Networks Program to fund up to 24 new support groups for people with cancer in the first year;
  • $15.1 million to support clinicians, consumers and health organisations across Australia to collaborate more closely on cancer care, building on the successful Cancer Services Network National Demonstration Program;
  • $6.8 million to improve lung cancer care through identifying research and clinical priorities, provide more consistent data and target health professionals to deliver best practice for this deadly cancer; and
  • $4.2 million in a national cancer monitoring centre that will help health professionals and service planners better understand national trends and patterns in cancer including risk factors, diagnoses, health service use and health outcomes.

There is also new funding provided for cancer medicines, details of which follow later in the paper.

E-health The Commonwealth, in partnership with State and Territory Governments, will continue to support the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA). The NEHTA will deliver key e-Health building blocks to:

  • support the safe and secure electronic exchange of patient information; and
  • develop national e-Health standards to enable the national compatibility of e-Health systems.

The Government will provide $1.2 million over four years for the development of a virtual network that will link data from health care providers in the north-west of Tasmania into a single integrated electronic clinical information and communication system. This network will allow for improved communications between general practitioners and other health professionals which will support the provision of coordinated health care to patients in the region.

Access to medicines – Cancer treatment, the National Prescribing Service and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Overall, the Government is outlaying $8.2billion on the delivery of essential medicines, focussing on cancer treatment, the National Prescribing Service and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Key initiatives to provide access to medicines include:

  • $168.0 million over four years from 2009-10 to continue funding for the Herceptin® program.
  • $6.8 million over four years to Cancer Australia to improve the treatment of people affected by lung cancer. This funding will support the collection of data to better measure clinical outcomes of patients. It will also fund priority lung cancer research and support the development of best practice guidelines to assist healthcare professionals to treat lung cancer patients.
  • An additional $21.0 million over four years to the National Prescribing Service to enhance the scope and reach of the assistance the service provides to medical practitioners.
  • An extension of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme reference pricing policies to all non-exempt pharmaceutical items in a therapeutic group.
  • An extension of the listing of Plavix® and Iscover® (clopidogrel) on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from 1 February 2009.
  • An increased uptake of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Online processing system.
  • Avastin® (bevacizumab) will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, from 1 July 2009, at an estimated cost of $314.1 million over four years. This includes funding for administering payments through Medicare Australia.
  • Sutent® (sunitinib) will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, from 1 May 2009, at an estimated cost of $131.1 million over five years.

The Government has also added a number of minor new listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This includes funding for administering payments through Medicare Australia.
Minor new listings include:

  • Aclasta®, for the treatment of osteoporosis;
  • Vfend®, for the treatment of specific fungal infections;
  • Nexavar®, for the treatment of primary liver cancer; and
  • Pegatron®, for the treatment of hepatitis C.

Indigenous health care An extra $205million is being committed to Indigenous health care, divided in the following:

  • $131.1 million for remote primary health;
  • $58.3 million for eye and ear health care;
  • $11.0 million for dental care; and
  • $3.8 million to improve pathology services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

For remote primary health, initiatives include:

  • continuation of the Remote Area Health Corps, to deliver and support more doctors, nurses and other health professionals;
  • completion of follow up services for dental and ear, nose and throat conditions identified through the Northern Territory Emergency Response child health checks;
  • expansion of the current Mobile Outreach Service to respond to child abuse-related trauma; and
  • continuation of alcohol and other drug treatment and rehabilitation services.

The $58.3million for improved ear and eye health care includes:

  • at least 1,000 additional eye and ear surgical procedures;
  • a major increase in services to address trachoma, which will enable at least 10 regional teams to treat and help prevent the disease in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia and other states where trachoma is identified;
  • expansion of the Visiting Optometrist Scheme in remote and very remote communities;
  • increased training of health workers to help early diagnosis of hearing problems;
  • investments in hearing medical equipment; and
  • hearing health promotion to increase awareness of ear disease and the importance of providing and following treatment to reduce hearing loss in Indigenous communities.