Health report card delivers mixed results as wait time crisis continue

Australia’s leading health consumer advocate has identified mental health and cost barriers to care amongst our main concerns compared to other Western countries.

On the positive side of the ledger, Australia is the second best-performing nation on hospital acquired infections, with rates continuing to fall.

The Consumer Report Card released by the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) analysed 12 key health indicators, finding six “of concern” for consumers.

Consumers Health Forum chief executive officer Leanne Wells said Australia rates sixth highest out of 11 high-income countries for high levels of psychological stress.

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“In most aspects the Australian health system appears to perform relatively well compared with other countries. One noteworthy aspect where Australia lags is on expenditure on public health measures to reduce the overall burden of disease and keep people well. On latest available measures, Australia’s expenditure is the 29th lowest out of 36 countries.”

The reports states: “Australia performs poorly compared to other nations when it comes to investment in public health and prevention programs to reduce the overall burden of disease and keep people well.”

Australia spends 1.5 per cent of health expenditure on public health measures, placing us 29th of 36 OECD countries.

The report found 50.5 per cent of Australians reported feeling lonely for at least one day in the previous week, a rate consistent with data from the past seven years.

However, 85 per cent of us say we are in good or very good health, ranking us fourth of the 36 OECD countries. This has not changed significantly in the past 10 years.

The report card did not assess ambulance response times.

In Victoria last month, a 32-year-old woman was found dead in her Caulfield North home, six-and-a-half hours after she called triple zero reporting numbness and feeling lightheaded, Nine reported. Ambulance response times are at their worse since 2017 in what has been described as a “deadly public health emergency“.

Hospitals in Perth are also in “crisis” dealing with overcrowded emergency departments, WAtoday reported. Emergency departments across the country are stretched to the limit.

Patients with serious injuries are being forced to wait in ambulances outside hospitals for as long as five hours.

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When US site vox.com examined Australia’s healthcare system, it concluded that we are on the brink of a reckoning, after managing to balance universal coverage and personal choice for so long.

“Australians generally believe everybody should be able to get care, affordably. At the same time, they believe that people who can pay more should be able to get more.

“But those two tiers bring inequities. There can be long wait times for elective surgeries at public hospitals. The emergency and ICU departments get crowded, especially in a public health crisis … Patients can occasionally get hit with unexpectedly big bills after a visit to a specialist.”

Indigenous and regional Australians receive a lesser service and the allocation of doctors between the private and public systems is problematic. But the biggest issue is the hybrid public/private system.

“And a reckoning is coming. Experts warn that the private insurance industry is heading toward a death spiral, with premiums rising steadily and healthier people dropping private coverage and relying instead on the public system. The crisis is forcing Australia to ask fundamental questions about how the country distributes its healthcare resources, and whether to continue to prop up the private market or invest more in public providers and public coverage.”

Despite the generally rosy conclusions of the CHF report card, Vox believes we are running out of time.

“Australia is staring down a difficult choice: Can the country keep delivering on the promise of universal coverage even as it diverts resources to preserve a struggling private option?”

How satisfied are you with our health system? What needs the most urgent attention? 

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Written by Will Brodie



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