Public wait lists extended by private sector push

Are public sector wait times getting longer?

doctor marking a clipboard

Waiting lists for specialists in the public health system are getting longer and researchers believe it's because they're spending too much time in the private sector.

In research published in the Australian Medical Review, eight different groups of specialists, including eye surgeons, ear nose and throat (ENT) specialists and cardiologists, were analysed for the amount of time they spent with private patients. Eye surgeons, ENTs and rheumatologists spent 70 per cent of their working week with private patients, while cardiologists and gastroenterologists spent 60 per cent. Neurosurgeons split their time 50/50, and if you need to see a kidney specialist you’re in luck, as they tend to spend more time in the public sector.

Doctors who work 30 per cent more in the private sector than the public earn about $100,000 more.

Professor Gary Freed has been studying Australia’s health system over the last five years, in particular whether doctors' division of work was matching the needs of the patient. He believes that doctors who favour the private sector may well be leading to increased public sector waiting lists. There are also inefficiencies in the public system caused by patients having to see different specialists each appointment.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) Presicent, Dr Michael Gannon, said he felt bureaucratic intervention was leading doctors to leave the public system altogether.

"There are quite burdensome continuing education requirements. For example, every year in the public system, even as someone who works there part time, I have to pass education modules on dealing with violent patients, hand washing modules, cultural competence modules," he said.

"High levels of managerialism have reduced morale in the public hospital system."

Dr Gannon, who is an obstetrician working in both sectors disagrees with Prof Freed’s assertion that the current system was inefficient.

What do you think? Have you experienced long public health waiting times to see a specialist? Do you feel that the continuation of care is not sufficient in the public sector? Do you think the private sector offers better care?




    To make a comment, please register or login
    6th Sep 2016
    Why don't we send someone over to Thailand to learn how to get something done in 2 hours that takes 2 weeks in Australia? It might help if we got rid of holiday loadings and weekend penalty rates to cut down costs too.
    7th Sep 2016
    How about we get rid of loading rates for politicions, eg Christopher Pyne's 75% loading somply for being the so called leader of the house!
    Super Gran
    6th Sep 2016
    Speaking from several experiences..why would Want to work in the public system . When Private Surgeons can charge what they like..Private Ins plus Medicare, doesn't stop them loading an extra 2-6 THOUSAND ON TOP
    Very. Hard to find one who will operate with NO GAPS??
    Beware some even charge a KNOW GAP plus the assisting surgeon 'charges 1/2 that fee on top..Also they spin visits out before deciding to operate,your health cover plus Medicare pay for this trickery.Regulation is a must, anyone calling themselves a Sports Surgeon top of the chart. Finally after several ops I was able to find two surgeons who looked after us Good luck finding one.

    6th Sep 2016
    Of course specialists are spending more time in the private health sector - this is where the money is! We have top grade private health insurance and wouldn't even consider the public system as our health is too valuable.
    6th Sep 2016
    I for one don't blame the doctors for working in the private sector. The amount they have to pay for their time at Uni to gain their degree often leaves them starting work with a HECS debt of over $100,000 then they have to pay rent for their surgeries, wages for their receptionists etc and all other bills for running a business. They do not work a 9to5 job either and the insurance costs are horrendous as we move towards the American style of sue for the slightest thing even though it is often the patients who don't do what they are told that cause problems. Yes there are some doctors who are in it purely for the money but a greater number are there as they want to help their fellow man.
    6th Sep 2016
    Yes , I believe insurance can cost a doctor $10K a year.
    8th Sep 2016
    For many the insurance is $100K per year.
    6th Sep 2016
    Bureaucracy rampant, including increased hours are the main cause of doctors leaving the health system in the UK, I have heard this from a doctor in contact with them there. It is going down the tube.
    6th Sep 2016
    UK healthcare is frightening. Have a daughter just gone over there was under 3 specialists out here, to see one in UK she had to go to a local GP with her referral letters then by SNAIL Mail, (not phone) the GP writes to the specialist who reads the referrals, decides if they can treat the patient, then writes the patient to write back and make an apt! Her specialist out here says she needs to have her operation by Mid September and the UK doctor says oh no we wait 6 months for that, come see me in December! Is a big worry!
    6th Sep 2016
    Perhaps then your daughter should have remained in Australia before landing her medical issues at the feet of the UK NHS.
    6th Sep 2016
    And Frank, insurance premiums can be much higher depending on the specialty!
    Super Gran
    6th Sep 2016
    I sat in a surgery where patients were seen by an Orthopedic surgeon average counsualtation 7 mins charges $75 average after benefits $175 no insurance, take 3 days at 7 hrs, then add operating days where surgery methods are quicker than before, some lasting only twenty mins once under... Wouldn't take to many yrs to rack the bucks up.
    Yes I understand they are highly trained professionals, charges for hospital ect how- ever the gap between ones private health and their fees doesn't cut it with me,,,
    Over n out
    Old Geezer
    6th Sep 2016
    I saw a specialist in a Public Hospital this morning. Only waited a couple of minutes and then he gave me all the time I needed to discuss my situation. No charge for the consultation.
    6th Sep 2016
    Isn't this the scare tactics used to make sure we all stay with private cover even though the gap is extraordinarily painful and the insurance costs are socking quite a punch too.
    6th Sep 2016
    If the government tied the use of public hospitals to doctors practicing in the public system then doctors could not avoid this.
    As things stand it appears that doctor may want to drive people through the private system because many have shares in private hospitals and it is in their interests to do this for all but high tech issues where they have no choice. Maybe I am wrong but my limited experience of doctors indicates that this is how many operate (pardon the pun).
    Old Geezer
    6th Sep 2016
    Mick I'll use a private hospital any day over a public one.

    I needed an op and I knew the wait was about 12 months in the public system as I had a friend waiting for same op. I saw specialist on Thursday and had the procedure done the following Monday. My friend was not happy as they had to wait for a few more months and when they did have t done it was not done properly and they had to have a further 2 procedures to fix the first one.

    No out of pocket expenses as it was all covered by Medicare and the health fund.
    6th Sep 2016
    "I have to pass education modules on ....... hand washing......". So the President of the AMA finds this burdensome? When most infections in hospitals are spread by Doctors and Specialists who are too important to wash hands like nurses do before, after and between patients and procedures!

    And what about the public system limiting operating times and procedures on financial grounds? Why see more people when there is little if any hope of actually being allowed to treat them in the public hospital> Is it really any wonder that these specialists choose to work more in the private sector. If they cannot do their job in the public sector what exactly do you expect them to do? Its easy to whinge about the alleged extra $100,000 they earn but where is the evidence that that they would not do more in the public system if allowed to do so?
    Nan Norma
    6th Sep 2016
    Would not want to live in America, state of the ark medical equipment, until your insurance runs out, then your on your own. I think on the whole our public hospitals do quite well, at least in Qld.
    6th Sep 2016
    Queensland has always had a good system. The state lottery used to support them. I wonder if they still do.
    7th Sep 2016
    The State lottery supported the health system in NSW too until they sold it. Where is the money?
    6th Sep 2016
    Yes KSS if possible my daughter would have stayed here in Australia but her husband was transferred to the UK and she and their children obviously went with him. As a serving member of Australia's defence forces they don't really have much choice when a transfer comes through.
    6th Sep 2016
    Surely if the surgery was so urgent, she could have joined her husband later. very little point in being so critical of a health system that is designed for its citizens not visitors when there were options particularly for those in the military and their families.
    6th Sep 2016
    I have been trying to get surgery on my feet. The waiting list of some of the Orthopaedic is so long. I have to wait months even though I have private insurance. As there is no cap of their fees they can bill you for what ever they choose. On top of that you have to pay 25% of their fees for their assistant, anaesthetist feeds and then your excess on your insurance. On top of that you are on a waiting list. Seriously thinking of going abroad to get my surgery done as most of the doctors are trained abroad.
    7th Sep 2016
    I've had friends delighted with dental and health treatments in Thailand. Get all the preliminary tests, reports etc done here to take with you. Your GP should be able to help.

    This situation could have been avoided by planning from the government and AMA.

    Consideration of the 300 000 new immigrants, 250 000 new babies and the hundreds of thousands of foreign students and workers plus the demographics of an ageing cohort would have allowed some planning surely.

    That is millions of new settlers and millions of boomers hitting 65 and nothing ready for it.

    Makes you wonder just what the Health Department, Urban Planning and AMA are getting paid for.

    And just why Howard decided tax breaks and tax concessions were a terrific idea.
    7th Sep 2016
    KSS my daughter is fully covered with her health fund so would not be a drain on the UK it is just she needs the operation! Until they arrived in UK they expected the medical system there to be similar to ours and not so backward!
    casper dude
    10th Sep 2016
    We can't fault our doctors surgery, medical care and hospital surgery in our small town of Cooroy in SE Queensland. We are pensioners and privately insured and it does cost us a lot of money each month in premiums but think it is well worth that cost as we age, now in our early 70's. We also look after our own health by eating sensibly, keeping very active both mentally and physically and not overweight. We are happy with our lot.
    27th Sep 2016
    Tried to make a specialist appointment last week. first available July 4, 2017 (10 months away) we will then be at least $`00 out of pocket after the Medicaire rebate. then I guess my husband will have to wait another 12 months for a much need operation. rpflemo

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