Public hospitals new report card reveals need for more funding

15 October, 2009

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has welcomed the support of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) for strengthening Australia's public hospital system.

"AHHA has repeatedly called for additional resources to be provided to public hospitals to enable them to meet growing community demand for care. We are pleased that the AMA is now supporting this position," Prue Power, AHHA Executive Director said.

"As Dr John Deeble recently stated in the Chalmers Oration (presented at Flinders University and published at the AHHA/AIHPS Congress last week) over the past decade public hospitals have dealt with substantial increases in demand without corresponding increases in resources.

"Dr Deeble's monograph found that over the 12 years to 2008, public hospitals have increased their public patient admissions per person covered by about 47% while the admission rate of privately insured people has hardly changed at all.

"He states that:  'It is astonishing that despite these figures being both publicly available and clear, all of the public criticism has been directed towards the “failure” and “mismanagement” of a public hospital system which has actually performed extremely well. But the fact is that most people, most commentators and most politicians will simply not believe the evidence.'

"As Dr Deeble also points out, it's not just about the numbers of patients admitted. As the private sector increasingly deals with less complex elective surgery, public hospitals now serve a smaller population but they have more of the old and disadvantaged people, take nearly all of the emergency cases and admit many more of the complex medical patients who stay longer and occupy beds.

"The data clearly supports the need for increased funding for public hospitals, along with more resources in the community sector to reduce unnecessary admissions. One of the most straightforward ways this can be achieved is through diverting the $3.6 billion for the private health insurance (PHI) rebate to the public hospital and community care systems.

"The PHI rebate is a grossly inefficient means of supporting private health care and would deliver much greater gains to the community if spent directly on health services and infrastructure. AHHA calls on all health groups to unite in advocating for the re-direction of the PHI rebate funds into public hospitals and community-based care," Power said.