After marathon negotiations, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reached a deal with state Premiers on Tuesday, regarding his proposed health reform plan.

A key element of the plan makes provision for the Commonwealth and the States to contribute to a new pool of funds that will allocate money to public hospitals.

The states will fund the scheme through 30 percent of their GST revenue which will give them a pivotal role in managing this fund. The majority of the funds, 60 percent, will be derived from the Federal Government.

The plan, however, is not an easy sell for Mr Rudd particularly as the Premier of Western Australia has announced that his state will not cosign the deal. Additionally, the government proposals will be it seems from initial responses, blocked in the Senate by the Opposition. This means that Mr Rudd’s reforms need the support of the seven Independent Senators.

Independent Senator from South Australia, Nick Xenophon talking to Neos Kosmos said that he is not yet convinced with the overall plan. He explained that he needed more information from the government as he was concerned over certain elements in the plan.

“I don’t think there is enough emphasis on preventative health. It’s much better to have a fence at the top of the cliff than to have an ambulance at the base,” Mr Xenophon said. He also expressed concern over what he said was a lack of funding for mental health under the proposed plan.

Criticism was also targeted at the “new level of bureaucracy that is created through the proposed scheme” which will be co-managed by the states.

Dr James Katsaros, Director of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department at Royal Adelaide Hospital, was also critical of the government’s health reform plan. “Like a lot of people in health I have grave reservations that Prime Minister Rudd’s plan is more political than it is an effective plan in improving medical services.”

He argued that there is no evidence of a strategy that funding health in a different fashion by merely changing the bureaucracy would provide better medical services.

“As a medical practitioner I know the details of why our health services have diminished in quality and in time delivery especially over the last decade or two,” Dr Katsaros emphasised. He attributes the phenomenon to poor management of dealing with chronic, acute and subacute medical problems.

Dr Katsaros was sceptical about the fundamental premise of the government’s plan. “When Rudd says this is a health reform; what is he reforming; what is he improving. That is not stated.”