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Fed Govt should focus on public hospitals in Budget :AHHA

13 May, 2008

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has again called on the Federal Government to increase funding for Australia's ailing public hospital system in the upcoming Federal Budget.

"Years of under-funding have left our public hospital system under severe stress. Over the past decade, we have experienced a 25% increase in admissions, despite predictions that the private health insurance rebate would reduce demand for public hospital services," Dr David Panter, President of the AHHA, said.

"Fifty per cent of admissions to a public hospital are emergencies and therefore require immediate attention. Twenty-three per cent of public hospital surgical admissions require emergency procedures (within 24 hours) to preserve life or body integrity. When combined with the significant workforce shortages across the health sector these increases in demand have resulted in an undeniable and predictable impact on hospitals' capacity to deliver safe services,"

"Unless public hospitals receive a significant increase in funding, to address the under-funding by the previous government, access to high quality public hospital services will be compromised.

"Part of the problems is the inadequate indexation factor of 1.7% applied in the current Australian Health Care Agreements (AHCAs). This falls way behind the actual growth in public hospital expenditure of 4.6%, after inflation.

Even when indexation for population increases and utilisation is factored in, the States and Territories are still way behind.

"The magnitude of this Commonwealth funding shortfall on public hospitals is significant.

In 2006-07 the total amount of Commonwealth funding that public hospitals missed out on was $1.6 billion. Over time, this funding gap will widen, prevent our public hospital system from keeping up with world class technologies and innovations.

"In particular, we need an increased funding investment in the following areas:
• Long-stay patients in hospitals (those who are eligible for residential aged care);
• Non-admitted patient services to Emergency and Outpatient Departments;
• Transition care, chronic disease management and sub-acute care in the community.

"To ensure Australia's public hospitals have a secure future, AHHA is advocating for indexation of at least 6.8% above inflation. Unless this is delivered, Australians will not get the high quality public hospital system they want and deserve," Dr Panter said.

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