Public hospitals report card: falling well short of standards

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The performance of public hospitals around Australia have been reviewed in the The Australian Medical Association 2016 Public Hospital Report Card – and the results aren’t positive.

Emergency departments were responsible for some of the most unsatisfactory results. Of primary concern are increasing waiting times. Last year, only 68 per cent of “urgent” emergency patients were seen within half an hour, failing to meet the 80 per cent target set by state governments. Also, just 73 per cent of emergency visits were completed within four hours, well short of the state-designated 90 per cent target.

The number of hospital beds available across the country increased slightly, but not enough to arrest the significant decline in the number of beds per 1000 population aged 65-plus, which is down more than 42 per cent since 1993-94.

There was some positive news though, with elective surgery waiting and treatment times decreasing for the first time since 2009-10. Treatment times fell by a full day from 36 days to 35 days.

Australian Medical Association President Professor Brian Owler noted that most state governments have made significant efforts to decrease waiting times and to reach the standards they have put in place, but every state is struggling to cope with the increased demands of a growing, ageing population.

Professor Owler is also concerned about the funding black hole that states will face from next year, when they are forced by the Federal Government to bear a larger share of health costs.

“In a struggling public hospital system that’s failing to meet its performance targets that sort of slowdown in funding growth will mean that they will be under further strain, and I think we’ll start to see further clinical services being cut,” he said.

Read more from www.abc.net.au

Opinion: Public hospital system in crisis

For the past two decades, the public hospital system in Australia has been failing to keep up with the increase in population. Not only will the population continue to grow significantly over the coming years, but Australians are also living longer, which will no doubt further contribute to the problems facing the public health system.

Planned funding changes which will come into effect next year, will see the states carry a larger share of public health costs. It should come as no surprise that an increased or broadened GST is the most likely way for the government to try to cover these costs.

The men and women who run our public hospitals do an amazing job, but it’s clear from this report that they are understaffed and under-resourced. Let’s hope for all our sakes that the right plan is put in place to resolve the many issues detailed in the AMA’s report.

What do you think? Does the Federal Government need to act swiftly and implement their planned changes so that the state governments have a clearer picture of funding levels for the coming years? Do we need to allocate more money towards funding public hospitals? How would you solve the long-term need for increased funding of public health and hospitals?

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Starting out as a week of work experience in 2005 while studying his Bachelor of Business at Swinburne University, Drew has never left his post and has been with the company ever since, working on the websites digital needs. Drew has a passion for all things technology which is only rivalled for his love of all things sport (watching, not playing).
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85 Comments

Total Comments: 85
  1. 0
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    Last week, following the results of a thyroid test my doctor was concerned that it was too high and tried to contact an endocrinologist at both Dandenong and Monash hospitals for about an hour.
    She was given the run around although she asked for the endocrinologist on call and kept ending back at the front desk, and was told it would be about 6 months before I could see one if she ever managed to speak to one.
    When I said that I had private health cover she rang the Valley private hospital and was put through to one straight away, he sent a script and I am seeing him next week.
    I am a pensioner but wouldn’t be without my private cover as you would die in the public system before being treated.

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      Yep, for years state and federal governments have been passing the blame back and forth, the public hospital system has been run down and tax payers funds gave been used to prop up the private sector, how much better would the public system be if the money refunded from private hospital rebate was used there

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    What would also help our health system is that those who could afford it would take out private health insurance. Having said that some of the health insurance funds do have outrageous fees and are trying to cut Nord and more items that they cover. The other problem is that some specialists charge enormous fees and one wonders about their so called intention to help the sick. At the end of the day you can’t take your money with you when you die but one does wonder what some of these specialists actually believe. Some of them are incredibly greedy and care little for sick Australians. On the other hand we have some great, caring and responsible Doctors. We need good government and Australians are certainly not getting that at the moment.

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      You must be joking you are joking, it still costs a packet and the headacks with the payments is a nightmare, and please do no call it insurance, insurance covers a person, medical co-payment does not, the hospital, maybe but the medical practitioners charge 4 maybe even 8 times the recommended charges, it is a joke

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      I agree with Ray from Bondi. Co payments made to private specialists can be horrendous. You can be thousands of $ out of pocket despite having top hospital cover.

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      Even if you have Private Health Insurance, if you go to Private Health Emergency Dept. at the ones in SA, you pay close to $300.00 and can’t claim on Medicare or Private Health Fund. Pensioners pay $220.00. Between certain hours at least one of them also only take Heart Attack patient cases. SA Ambulance staff get into so much strife that if they aren’t convinced it is a heart attack they won’t take a patient there.
      The hospitals simply don’t have enough staff to cope with the number of patients who are genuinely ill enough to have to go there by ambulance. In some hospitals when they are full some nurses don’t take their full break entitlements because their patients aren’t being cared for. Some almost physically run between patients.
      Our health system in SA is going to the dogs. If they implement the changes they are proposing, some hospitals won’t take heart attack or stroke patients – they will go to set ones. One of the hospitals that they will be going to can’t cope with the number of patients they have now and often divert ambulances to others which is now predicted to take those who may only need other care and possibly day or short stay hospital care. They are however going to have a huge Rehabilitation Centre within it. At that hospital they also have Mental Health patients. They are very often kept Emergency until a bed is available in the Mental Health Wards – can be over 24 hours. The staff in Emergency are not specifically trained for Mental Health, one of the main reasons the Hospitals have so many Security Guards, also drunk and drug affected patients. They often have to have priority treatment while other seriosuly ill patients treatment is sometimes delayed.

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      It would be better if the insurance companies were not taking money out of the system at all.

      How many new hospitals or upgraded hospitals has the government supplied for all the immigrants and migrant workers and students?

      That should have been a priority and new settlers pay a levy to cover medical and education.

      We though the taxes they would pay would cover it but apparently they don’t. And the employers are not paying much tax at all even if the immigration is keeping wages low. In fact perhaps wages need to rise. It has been a very long time of belt tightening, don’t we get a feast now and then. Higher wages, more taxes, better services.

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      Blossom, they can do this because the alternative is going to a public hospital and waiting for hours. Unfortunately some people misuse the public system and turn up in emergency after hours for minor complaints which they have had for days or weeks or which could wait until the next day. An extremely good system has been implemented in regional Queensland where there is an after hours doctor on call who will come to your home, can provide treatment and medications for less serious conditions and then sends all the information to your own GP. The service is bulkbilled. Great for kids especially. The sad reality is that funding isn’t keeping up with population increase or the increasing rates of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity related conditions. If the government ceased the healthcare rebate and increased the medicare levy for those people on higher incomes instead of exempting them because they have private insurance that would be a start.

  3. 0
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    My experience is quite different to that of Fiona. I do not have private health cover – just my medicare card. I have rarely used medical services in my life but after chest pains I went to emergency at Concord Hospital on a Friday night several weeks back and was seen to immediately. I was kept in the cardiac ward over the week end and then had a stent put in on Monday morning. Medications were prepared and careful advice given for recuperation. The care and professional attention I received was outstanding. I still have to get the all clear from the specialist but even with that expense, the total cost of everything will be less than $500. I am grateful for the wonderful public health system we have in this country.
    I also wonder if the authors of negative reports on the public health system have interests in the private health system.

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      You had $500 ? Good onya ! 🙂

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      What this shows I think is the differences from state to state and also the effect of a ‘real’ emergency. In your case Geographer, your condition was potentially immediately life threatening and was dealt with accordingly and appropriately. Fiona on the other hand has a condition that is not immediately life threatening and was not being dealt with in an emergency department and so she had to wait in line for the next available appointment which, whilst sometimes distressing, will not result in death.

      Both you and Fiona are quite right. We have a terrific public health system that is there for us when we really need it even if we have to wait a bit. It is also under funded and under staffed.

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      Yes KSS, heart attacks are handled very quickly. I’ve had 3, & apart from driving myself to hospital after an hours wait for an ambulance with one, I’ve been fixed very quickly.

      With a failed knee I waited 3 years without ever seeing a specialist, & would probably still be waiting if I had not saved enough to go private. Unfortunately they don’t want to operate unless I have 6 months off the steroids my doctor is using to control the pain, & I can’t handle it that long. Catch 22 I guess.

      You are wrong about understaffing. The problem is hordes of administration staff doing nothing useful, & costing money that should be spent on doctors & nursing staff.

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      I agree KSS, When you present at the hospital with an ailment doctors grade you. Usually chest pain is an emergency on application. Grades then go from Grade one which is treatment within 30 days etc. I think with some elective surgery you can wait 2-3 years or longer. It’s a matter of prioritising to make best use of resources.

  4. 0
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    Stop letting deadbeats into the country, quit sending money overseas to to help other countries who don’t reciprocate when Australia needs assistance, strengthen border security to keep contraband out (drugs, guns, etc.) as well as illegal immigrants, and this is just a start at looking at some of the larger issues which drain the coffers that fund the public health system.

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      Eddie who decides who is a deadbeat? What are the criteria are to be used to determine the decree of “Deadbeatedness”.

      Name the countries who haven’t reciprocated by assisting Australia in our hour of need. (Hint, WW2 Great Britain)

      What is your plan to ensure contraband does not into the country. (Eddie will pay more tax to increase staff ??? )

      What is your plan to catch illegals? (The majority of illegals are visa over stayers such as British and Irish backpackers).(Eddie will pay more tax to increase staff ??? )

      Those draining the public coffers are multinational companies who pay minimal or no tax, millionaires and billionaires who pay little or no tax, corporate welfare in the form of subsides, taxpayer money spent on so called policies implemented to prop up the egos of inadequate politicians.

      BUT the biggest drain the heart and soul of Australia is the people who should know better, who spew the bile of ignorance and bigotry.

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      You should channel some of your hot air to do the work of your gas heater. “bile of ignorance and bigotry” HA! You wouldn’t even know which way is up, mate.

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      A discussion about health is not the forum for racist and bigoted rant Eddie.

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      Deadbeats and illegal migrrants have absolutely nothing to do with racism, veepee. You are about as educated as “gasbag”. You wouldn’t have a clue. Get a dictionary.

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      Agree Eddie that would make a big improvement. Never fails does it?always someone out there spruiking the ”racism card ” to make their own views seem valid in any sort of discussion

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      Yes, tj, they are always there, lurking under their lowlife rocks, waiting for a cheap shot. I don’t mind being corrected about something I’ve said, but the two cretins above, who don’t even know what words mean (racism, bigotry) should keep their hair-trigger gobs shut and finish their middle school education before trying to make ANY comment.

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      BHlthSc, Masters Nursing, Graduate Diploma of Midwifery. Think I’ve got middle school covered.

    • 0
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      And absolutely no common sense nor knowledge of word meanings. You, too, need a dictionary.

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      I am well aware of what a bigot is and you definitely qualify being narrow minded and intolerant (of immigrants and ‘deadbeats’ and anyone who doesn’t agree with your very narrow views). As for common sense, I would suggest that people who are broadminded, tolerant of others, especially those who find themselves unfortunate circumstances, have bothered to educate themselves and expand their views by reading and travelling widely and have worked with people on a daily basis from all walks of life and political views, of many races and religions and from all socioeconomic strata is far more likely to display ‘common sense’ than a person who has displayed narrow views and understanding and contributed nothing to this discussion but diatribe. Do you actually have any views on how our government might improve our public health system?

    • 0
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      I am well aware of what a bigot is and you definitely qualify being narrow minded and intolerant (of immigrants and ‘deadbeats’ and anyone who doesn’t agree with your very narrow views). As for common sense, I would suggest that people who are broadminded, tolerant of others, especially those who find themselves unfortunate circumstances, have bothered to educate themselves and expand their views by reading and travelling widely and have worked with people on a daily basis from all walks of life and political views, of many races and religions and from all socioeconomic strata is far more likely to display ‘common sense’ than a person who has displayed narrow views and understanding and contributed nothing to this discussion but diatribe. Do you actually have any views on how our government might improve our public health system?

    • 0
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      I am well aware of what a bigot is and you definitely qualify being narrow minded and intolerant (of immigrants and ‘deadbeats’ and anyone who doesn’t agree with your very narrow views). As for common sense, I would suggest that people who are broadminded, tolerant of others, especially those who find themselves unfortunate circumstances, have bothered to educate themselves and expand their views by reading and travelling widely and have worked with people on a daily basis from all walks of life and political views, of many races and religions and from all socioeconomic strata is far more likely to display ‘common sense’ than a person who has displayed narrow views and understanding and contributed nothing to this discussion but diatribe. Do you actually have any views on how our government might improve our public health system?

    • 0
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      I am well aware of what a bigot is and you definitely qualify being narrow minded and intolerant (of immigrants and ‘deadbeats’ and anyone who doesn’t agree with your very narrow views). As for common sense, I would suggest that people who are broadminded, tolerant of others, especially those who find themselves unfortunate circumstances, have bothered to educate themselves and expand their views by reading and travelling widely and have worked with people on a daily basis from all walks of life and political views, of many races and religions and from all socioeconomic strata is far more likely to display ‘common sense’ than a person who has displayed narrow views and understanding and contributed nothing to this discussion but diatribe. Do you actually have any views on how our government might improve our public health system?

    • 0
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      I am well aware of what a bigot is and you definitely qualify being narrow minded and intolerant (of immigrants and ‘deadbeats’ and anyone who doesn’t agree with your very narrow views). As for common sense, I would suggest that people who are broadminded, tolerant of others, especially those who find themselves unfortunate circumstances, have bothered to educate themselves and expand their views by reading and travelling widely and have worked with people on a daily basis from all walks of life and political views, of many races and religions and from all socioeconomic strata is far more likely to display ‘common sense’ than a person who has displayed narrow views and understanding and contributed nothing to this discussion but diatribe. Do you actually have any views on how our government might improve our public health system?

    • 0
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      Spoken like a true anthropologist, Fast Eddie. Your insight into human nature should be commended at the highest level. I can’t understand why your weren’t made Australian of the Year.

  5. 0
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    Wouldn’t it be a better idea if the money that will be spent on becoming a republic be put into the public health system. Any replies need not be a long winded affair, just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’

  6. 0
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    If a person can afford private health insurance they can afford to pay more tax. Rather than just looking out for themselves and entrenching a two-tiered system where some can afford private health and most can’t and the subsequent health care depends on your individual wealth (a common system in underdeveloped countries, the USA and Dickensian England), the tax system should be used to create one health care system for all. Can you imagine how good it would be if Turnbull, Shorten and the like all had to share the same waiting rooms, the same waiting lists? A solution would be found in no time.

    • 0
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      “If a person can afford private health insurance they can afford to pay more tax.”

      Really? Does that include those on a pension who make serious sacrifices to ‘afford’ private health insurance? Or those with a couple of children and an average wage of say $70,000 a year? Or the single man paying high child and spousal support after a divorce which leaves him with barely enough to afford his own decent accommodation? There would be hundreds of other examples of people with health insurance who struggle to afford it but who choose to do so. They are not rich (whatever that means) and they should not be ‘punished’ with more tax.

      In case you didn’t know, people over the age of 31 are already ‘taxed’ more for not having private health insurance through the Medicare Levy Surcharge of between 1% and 1.5% depending on income level. In addition they have to pay a premium on the insurance policy of around 2% for each year over the age of 31 they have not held that insurance. ‘Taxed’ enough I’d say.

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      Stretch(ed) the point a little bit too far here. There are a lot of people who have private hospital cover because they are sick and can’t afford to wait for public hospital care/treatment. The private cover is taxing enough for them. Have a bit of compassion. Take a stroll through a private ward and you will see bedridden being visited by family and friends who look “dirt poor” and probably are. They don’t need to pay more taxes! Your comment is foolish.

  7. 0
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    There is no doubt that some hospitals can make you sick.
    Good health everyone!!

  8. 0
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    The Abbott government cut funding to the public health system, $60 billion for NSW, in the 2014 budget. This was part of their strategy to coerce and blackmail the states into agreeing to an increase in the GST.

    In addition, the LNP have a long term policy of dismantling Medicare, which they hate and loathe. This is demonstrated by the removal of a high number of items from the Medicare benefits list. The LNP want to force everyone into the private health sector, providers and insurance companies are significant donars to the LNP.

    If the private health insurance rebate was scrapped and the money saved was redirected to funding the public health system there would be sufficient funding to provide the world class, universal health care system that we should have.

    AND before those who favour the retention of the private health insurance rebate, the rebate is another mechanism whereby taxpayer money is redirected into the profits of insurance companies and their shareholders. It is corporate welfare to multinational insurance companies.

    • 0
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      Yep, spot on.
      The motivation by the LNP in keeping insurance companies profitable, both for ideological and electoral donation reasons surely is well known.

    • 0
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      “This is demonstrated by the removal of a high number of items from the Medicare benefits list.”

      High Number? Yes all 23 of them from a list of 5,700 that covers 911 pages!!

      And most of those were items out of date and superceded by more effective items, rarely if ever used items and things such as paracetamol that can be obtained cheaply over the counter.

      And I might add the process was started by the ALP who had identified 156 items to remove but just didn’t do it!

    • 0
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      Mygas, you may not be aware, but Public Health funding has not been cut. The $60b you think was cut was only an entry in the forward estimates. A political booby trap planted by the ALP government without funding. Sure Labor banged away with it for some 18 months after the election and gained some political ground. But that ground was lost when Bill Shorten was asked if Labor would spend the fictitious $60b if they were returned. His answer was an emphatic NO!

  9. 0
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    I have had a VERY different experience with the public hospital system. I have always been seen in what I consider a more than reasonable time frame, and have had to see 8 specialists at my public hospital in the last 3 years. Everyone has been more than professional and I know that I would not have gotten better service in the private health system.

    I live in Townsville so it is a very large hospital with a large catchment area. So, criticism of the public hospital system is not a country wide problem!

    • 0
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      That’s my experience too. The Austin Hospital has been great for a serious ailment for me.
      For less than serious ailments they and I suspect all public hospitals are far from urgent in responding. Personally I think that is ok. I have forked over the money to a private clinic when I didn’t want to wait. A choice that has actually cost me a lot less than paying for health insurance.

    • 0
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      It sounds like you are a real tighta$$.

  10. 0
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    Why doesn’t the government stop propping up the health insurance industry with the premium rebate and put the money saved into the public hospital system. Furthermore, why are they subsidising hospital beds in private hospitals, many of which are owned by said health funds. For too long we have been blackmailed into having private health insurance which becomes increasingly expensive. Many private doctors demand co-payments (obstetricians and anaesthetists being the worst offenders) so even after paying private insurance many people are paying out thousands for the privilege of having private insurance in government subsidised private hospitals. And as we get older we find that services like joint replacements and cardiac care procedures are only covered by the most expensive policies, so many people with private insurance are still having to use the public system for those anyway. So stop propping up the private system and give us a first class public system. If the wealthy still want private insurance or private care that is their prerogative, but it should not come at taxpayers’ expense or at the expense of the public system. In a real emergency such as a cardiac event it is far more sensible to go public anyway.

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