Public hospitals have solutions for health system problems

01 November, 2007

Public hospitals have the solutions to the problems facing the hospital system and with support and political leadership can ensure that our hospital system is well equipped to meet current and future health care challenges, according to the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

The AHHA is the peak national body representing public hospitals, area health services, community and public aged care services.

"The community is rightly concerned about the state of our public hospital system. Public hospitals have been placed under increasing pressure by the progressive reduction in the share of money contributed by the Commonwealth over the life of the last two funding agreements. This has made it harder and harder for hospitals to continue to provide high quality care to the community," Prue Power, Executive Director said.

Dr John Deeble, one of Australia's leading health economists and the architect of Medicare said "Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that despite significant increases in hospital separations in 2005/06, Commonwealth funding for public hospitals increased only slightly and actually fell as a proportion of total funding.

In fact, the Commonwealth's contribution has dropped from 50% in 1999/2000 to less than 43% in 2005/06. This dramatic decline in funding has had to be matched by a commensurate increase in State/Territory contributions which have risen to over 57% of public hospital funding.

"Restoring this funding shortfall would be a great first step to taking the pressure off public hospitals and enabling them to upgrade ageing infrastructure and equipment," Power said.

"We also need to reduce the high numbers of preventable hospital admissions. Many people who end up in hospital should have received better care in the community before their conditions became so severe that they required hospitalisation,"

"These problems will not be addressed until we introduce a more transparent and accountable health funding system which provides one point of accountability for all health services. "The Australian community is sick and tired of the continual fighting over funding responsibilities by governments and is looking for a better way of funding health care.

"This should be the focus of the next Australian Health Care Agreements (AHCAs), which will be negotiated after the federal election. These agreements will be critical in setting the foundation for a strong public health system for the future.

"To inform this negotiation process, AHHA is holding a forum on the 29th of November, bringing together senior managers and executives from the public hospital sector, together with academics and other health experts, to develop options for the ACHAs and to discuss policy directions under the new government.

"The post-election period will be critical for the negotiation of the AHCAs and thus for the future of Australia's public health system. AHHA is committed to working together with other health stakeholders, consumers and governments to give Australia a world class hospital system," Power said.