Public health and women’s health

Budget Review 2022–23 Index

Rebecca Storen

This article provides a brief overview of several public health, women’s health and bereavement measures announced in the 2022–23 Budget. The most financially significant announcement is the COVID-19 response package, which provides ongoing funding for many existing COVID-19 response measures, including through the National Partnership on COVID-19 Response (National Partnership) with the states and territories, primary care, vaccines and treatments.

The Budget also provides 2 specific preventive health measures and includes dedicated funding of the National Preventive Health Strategy 2021–2030 (preventive health strategy) and funding for other initiatives, such as increased cancer screening and alcohol and other drug (AOD) activities.

In addition, the women’s health package includes measures to support and implement the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–2030 (women’s health strategy) and the new National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children (this plan is further discussed in the ‘Women’s safety’ article elsewhere in this Budget review). The Budget also provides funding for activities to support the implementation of the National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan (stillbirth action plan) with bereavement support and improved access to stillbirth autopsy services.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed several of these budget announcements, but flagged that the endometriosis support measures announced will need careful implementation to avoid care fragmentation. In addition, the RACGP notes that the National Ice Action Strategy funding through the Primary Health Networks (PHN) only indirectly supports the role of general practitioners (GP), and it continues to call for increased recognition of the role of GPs in treating AOD use and the extension of funding for GP education in this area.

COVID-19 response package

The Government has committed $4.2 billion to continue the COVID-19 pandemic health response and the anticipated influenza season across a range of activities (Portfolio budget statements 2022–23: budget related paper no. 1.7: health portfolio, p. 35).

Agreements with the state and territories

The Budget provides $984.0 million to extend the activities of the National Partnership through the supporting hospitals measures and an additional $69.3 million (from 2021–22) for vaccines (Budget measures: budget paper no. 2, pp. 91–92). In addition, an estimated $934.1 million in 2022–23 will be provided to the states and territories through the National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA) for the COVID-19 public health response (Federal financial relations: budget paper no. 3: 2022–23, p. 19). There is some interaction between the funding provided under the NHRA and that provided under the National Partnership, including some hospital activities that would normally be funded under the NHRA instead of being funded under the National Partnership (Budget paper no. 3, p. 20).

The additional funding to extend the National Partnership until 30 September 2022 includes:

  • $597.2 million for work to minimise the spread of COVID-19
  • $311.8 million for state and territory hospital services to support the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
  • $54.2 million through the Private Hospital Viability Guarantee
  • $38 million to support the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines
  • $19.3 million to support infection prevention and control training for residential aged care (Health portfolio 2022–23 budget stakeholder pack, pp. 161–162).

Primary care

The Budget provides funding to extend several primary care activities, including:

  • $248.1 million to extend the General Practitioner-led respiratory clinic (GPRC) program until 30 September 2022 (Health portfolio budget statement, p. 38)
  • $43.3 million in 2022–23 to continue the Remote and Indigenous Response to COVID-19 and the transition to living with COVID-19; this includes:
    • support for the Royal Flying Doctor Service to respond to outbreaks and deliver vaccines
    • testing and vaccination support for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS)
    • the remote point-of-care testing program, which is provided in 150 communities (Health stakeholder pack, p. 161).
  • $23.4 million to extend healthdirect’s triage, assessment and referral service
  • $13.6 million in 2022–23 for the purchase of pulse oximeters, and the distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the pulse oximeters through the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) to general practices, GPRCs, ACCHS and community pharmacies providing COVID-19 vaccines (Budget paper no. 2, p. 91)
  • $6 million to extend activities through the PHNs to coordinate care of COVID-19 patients in the community (Health stakeholder pack, p. 161).

COVID-19 specific measures for aged care

The Budget provides $458.2 million over 5 years from 2021–22 for aged care, including:

  • an additional $215.3 million over 2 years from 2021–22 for a bonus of up to $800 for aged care workers (Health stakeholder pack, p. 157)
  • $124.9 million to expand the Aged Care Preparedness Measure, which includes continuing the Aged Care Support Program until 31 December 2022 and expanding it for services directly affected by the floods
  • $50.4 million for 400 training places for registered nurses working in residential aged care to become Authorised Nurse Immunisers
  • $37.6 million to establish infection control and prevention training grants for an estimated 2,900 nurses in residential aged care.

Alongside these measures is funding for the addition of PPE to the NMS for distribution to residential aged care, which is estimated to be over $1.09 billion (noting that this figure includes PPE for ‘other frontline health service sites’) (Health portfolio budget statement, p. 36).

COVID-19 testing

The Budget provides:

  • $22.1 million in additional funding to extend in-reach COVID-19 pathology testing into residential aged care
  • $546.0 million to extend the temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) pathology items for testing for COVID-19 (Budget paper no. 2, pp. 88–89).

While a breakdown of the financial implications for rapid antigen tests (RAT) is not provided, the Government will invest approximately $1.6 billion for RATs over 2 years from 2021–22, which includes the following measures:

  • an extension of the COVID-19 Rapid Test Concessional Access Program until 31 July 2022, which is jointly funded with state and territory governments under the National Partnership
  • purchase and distribution of RATs to residential aged care, National Disability Insurance Scheme Supported Independent Living, GPRCs, ACCHS, remote communities and to the states and territories (Budget paper no. 2, p. 90)
  • 50% reimbursement for state and territory government costs incurred to provide 2 RATs per week for 4 weeks for COVID-19 testing for children and staff in schools and early childhood education (Health portfolio budget statement, p. 37).

COVID-19 vaccines and treatment

Commercial sensitivities limit the available information on the financial implications of COVID-19 vaccination and treatment (medicines); however, some information on vaccine distribution is available.

The Budget provides additional funding to extend the COVID-19 vaccination program until the end of 2022 for vaccine administration through primary care and community settings (including through the MBS), which include targeted programs for people who may be more vulnerable, such as people living in aged and disability care services. The exact figure is uncertain, with different sources provided different numbers with figures range from $690.4 million in the Health portfolio budget statement (p. 35) to $839.3 million in the Health stakeholder pack (p. 164), with little information available is it unclear why these figures may differ.

The operation of the National COVID Taskforce has been extended until 31 December 2022 with the provision of $70.9 million, along with $66.7 million to continue data and digital systems required for the vaccine rollout (Health stakeholder pack, p. 164).

The Government has also extended the COVID-19 Vaccine Claims Scheme to include children aged 0 to 4 years and a fourth dose for priority cohorts to enable access to compensation for COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Preventive health

The Budget has 2 main preventive health measures:

  • $30.1 million for the National Preventive Health Strategy 2021–2030 over 4 years from 2022–23
  • $170.2 million for preventive health over 5 years from 2021–22.

These measures will be partially funded through existing Department of Health resources (pp. 105–107).

The Public Health Association of Australia has welcomed some of the initiatives but has stated that ‘when we put that lens of public and preventive health as outlined in the National Preventive Health Strategy across the 2022 Federal Budget, I’m sorry, but the Budget is an F minus’.

National Preventive Health Strategy

In December 2021, the Government released the preventive health strategy, a move welcomed by stakeholders, although questions remain concerning its implementation. The strategy has 4 aims, including increasing investment in prevention, underpinned by the commitment to increase the investment in preventive health to 5% of total health expenditure for the Commonwealth, state and territory governments by 2030 (p. 9).

The Budget provides $30.1 million over 4 years from 2022–23 for initiatives under the strategy, which is partially covered by existing resources in the Department of Health (p. 107). Initiatives include:

Alcohol and other drugs

Building on its earlier commitment to the National Ice Action Strategy, the Government has allocated an additional $31.6 million over 4 years from 2022–23 to extend 19 projects under this strategy (p. 105).

The Budget provides $19.6 million over 4 years from 2022–23 (and $4.9 million per year thereafter) to roll out a national take-home naloxone program. The national rollout was ‘very strongly recommended’ by researchers, based on findings from an evaluation of the pilot program (p. xix). The program enables people who may be at risk of, or likely to witness, an opioid overdose to access naloxone (which temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose) without a prescription and free of charge from approved sites, such as pharmacies. It is estimated that the national program will potentially avert over 4,000 overdose medical events each year (Health portfolio budget statement, p. 29).

The Budget also provides $9.2 million in 2022–23 to extend 4 existing programs: 2 through the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, one through Hello Sunday Morning and another through SMART recovery (p. 106).

Screening programs and other preventive health measures

In response to the recent decline in cancer screening and early diagnostic testing rates, $55.7 million has been allocated to increase the availability of screening services, including:

  • $10.2 million to promote cervical screening self-collection tests and another $4.1 million to increase test distribution
  • $15 million for a communication campaign about staying up to date with health checks and promoting digital services, such as electronic prescriptions (Health stakeholder pack, p. 113).

Funding has also been provided for other preventive health activities including:

  • $26.9 million over 4 years to establish a National Allergy Centre of Excellence, a National Allergy Council and a national register for anaphylaxis
  • $10.6 million over 2 years for a preventive health communication campaign for culturally and linguistically diverse communities (Budget paper no. 2, pp. 105–106).

Women’s health

The Women’s health package provides funding to improve health services for women and support the implementation of the women’s health strategy including $1.6 million to establish a National Women’s Health Advisory Council to monitor and report on implementation of the strategy.

Funding for this measure will be partially met by existing resources of the Department of Health and Services Australia (pp. 113–115).


The Government has allocated $58.1 million for supports for women living with endometriosis, which includes:

  • $25.2 million over 4 years for a new MBS item for pelvic magnetic resonance imaging for the investigation of infertility, including for people with endometriosis
  • $16.4 million to establish 16 endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics in general practices
  • $5.1 million for the development of an Endometriosis Management Plan
  • $5.1 million for the National Endometriosis Clinical and Scientific Trials (NECST) Network for research and the NECST registry (pp. 113–114).

National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children – health measures

The Budget provides $137.6 million for health care and support for women who have experienced intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence, including:

  • $67.2 million to pilot a national model of trauma-informed recovery care through the PHNs
  • $48.7 million to enhance and expand primary care models to assist people who have experienced family, domestic and sexual violence to navigate and access health services across Australia
  • $20.0 million over 4 years ($25.0 million over 5 years) to the Illawarra Women’s Centre to support the establishment of a women’s trauma recovery centre
  • $1.7 million to address the impacts of female genital mutilation or cutting (Health Portfolio Budget Statement, p. 29).

Ovarian and breast cancer support

The Budget provides $39.8 million over 3 years from 2023–24 to the McGrath Foundation to continue its Breast Cancer Nurses Program and $4.0 million over 4 years to Ovarian Cancer Australia’s Teal Support Program (p. 115).

Bereavement support

The Government has allocated $23 million for bereavement support and stillbirth autopsy services, supporting the implementation of the stillbirth action plan, including:

  • $5.1 million over 4 years to establish a grant program for stillbirth and miscarriage support services
  • $4.2 million to extend the Hospital to Home program, which supports parents leaving hospital after stillbirth, sudden infant death or neonatal death
  • $13.7 million over 3 years to the states and territories to increase stillbirth autopsies, including creating a dedicated Perinatal Pathologist position in each state and territory (Budget paper no. 2, p. 115).



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