News & Trends - Medical Technology

Call for urgent injection of public hospital funding

Health Industry Hub | June 7, 2021 |
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MedTech News: The country’s largest union is calling for urgent funding and resourcing of Australia’s overstretched public hospital system to ensure that health professionals can deliver safe, quality care to the community.

With its members working on the frontline of public healthcare settings, the the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is increasingly concerned about the state of our public hospitals across the country: from the lack of beds and ‘ambulance ramping’; delays in elective surgeries, decreases in ED performances and shortages of nurses and doctors, all stemming from Federal Government under-resourcing.

“The Government must use its National Cabinet to show genuine national leadership and urgently reform public health funding so that it is fair and equitable, and crucially so that health professionals can deliver safe, quality care to people who need care when they need it,” said ANMF Federal Secretary, Annie Butler.

“Our public hospitals are beyond over-stretched, and ANMF members across all sectors including aged care, are run off their feet, day in, day out. What’s apparent is that the care they can provide to the community is clearly being compromised. As reported by our members and supported by the AMA’s Public Hospital Report Card, ED performance is declining, ambulance ramping is occurring across the country and the nurses, midwives, doctors and paramedics trying to hold the system together are at breaking point.

“The COVID pandemic demonstrated just how important a strong, resilient public health system that is properly funded to cope with surges in demand. We need to ensure that we don’t now neglect the system and cause unsustainable pressure on our healthcare professionals.

“The ANMF is urging the Government to return to a funding model that grows in response to ballooning demand and costs suffered by our public hospitals and improves every Australian’s access to quality public health services, including elective surgery, EDs and subacute care. We are also asking the Government to urgently address the factors exacerbating the pressures on the public health system, including improving primary health care services and, critically, ensuring better health care delivery in aged care through better staffing.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says the National Cabinet must urgently move to shared 50 – 50 Commonwealth–State funding for public hospitals, and remove the artificial cap that stops our system meeting community demand.

“Our public hospitals are at breaking point and patients are suffering as a consequence,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

“Our hospital performance continues to decline. Prior to the pandemic Australians were waiting 41 days for elective surgery – 8 days longer than in 2008-09. We’ve got the lowest rate of beds per 1,000 people over the age of 65 years. It’s declined 26 years in a row.

“Emergency department performance, as outlined in the AMA’s Public Hospital Report Card, has also declined in recent years.

“National Cabinet should take this opportunity to urgently reform public hospital funding because hospitals are not just a ‘State’ issue, nor a ‘Federal’ issue – they are a ‘National’ issue. It requires national leadership and we need the Prime Minister and Premiers, and all Health ministers, to work together.

“Urgent funding is required to expand the capacity of our hospitals and reduce demand so we have hospital beds for all who need them, rather than the current system which incentivises the through-put of large numbers of patients, and in so doing clogs up the system,” Dr Khorshid said.

Furthermore, under the National Health Reform Agreement, the Commonwealth caps its increased contribution to public hospitals to 6.5 per cent growth year on year, which limits the ability of states to respond to demand.

The AMA says while the current activity-based funding model has achieved some positive outcomes, such as improved transparency and efficiency, it was designed to work alongside other funding mechanisms, including funding to improve performance and expand capacity.

Dr Khorshid said “Australians when waiting with a sick child or family member don’t care about funding models or which level of bureaucracy is responsible, they care that there are enough doctors, nurses and beds to give them the emergency care they need, at the time they need it.

“And doctors are sick of hearing about ‘record’ funding – AMA’s own analysis shows the current mechanism has literally stripped away billions in funding – just from inadequate indexation and caps on funding.

“We rose to the challenge of COVID. We need to rise to the challenge facing our hospitals with the same sense of urgency,” he stated.

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