News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Critical funding shortfalls unveiled in public hospitals

Health Industry Hub | July 21, 2023 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has sounded the alarm on the state of funding for Australia’s public hospitals. According to its submission to the Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2024-25 consultation paper, the current funding model is falling woefully short, leading to severe consequences for patients and healthcare professionals alike.

The AMA’s concerns centre on the growing complexities of healthcare needs, driven by an aging population and the mounting burden of disease. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges, pushing hospitals and medical staff to their limits.

Medical professionals, particularly trainees, are bearing the brunt of the crisis, facing burnout, and contemplating leaving the profession altogether. The strain on public hospitals has left doctors and nurses overworked, and tragically, some have been subjected to verbal and even physical abuse from dissatisfied patients.

The 2024-25 Pricing Framework consultation paper outlines IHACPA’s intention to monitor the backlog of elective surgeries and deferred care, recognising the far-reaching consequences of delayed treatments. The AMA has wholeheartedly supported this approach, as it highlights the increase in complexity and recovery needs for patients whose surgeries were delayed due to the pandemic.

One concerning aspect that the consultation paper seems to overlook is the inadequate consideration of external stakeholders’ views, especially from medical professionals who are at the forefront of the deteriorating hospital performance. Their input is crucial in shaping the yearly National Efficient Price (NEP) Determination, which, unfortunately, has been more focused on cost-saving measures rather than addressing genuine funding needs.

The AMA has also urged IHACPA to give due importance to the cost of delayed access to specialists in outpatient clinics, which can lead to patients arriving at emergency departments with more complex health conditions, delayed diagnoses of serious illnesses like cancer, and longer recovery periods.

Another critical point raised by the AMA pertains to the review of temporary pricing measures introduced during the pandemic. The proposed abolishment of the COVID-19 treatment adjustment and temporary ICU measure for COVID-19 patients could have disastrous consequences. This move might lead to reduced funding for infection prevention, staff rostering, and ultimately, increased infection rates for both patients and healthcare workers.

The submission cites international evidence showing that reliance on temporary staff and overtime hours is significantly associated with increased hospital-acquired complications. Hospitals are already grappling with staff shortages and burnout, exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19, which could further drive up healthcare costs.

The AMA emphasises that inflationary pressures, combined with labour shortages and burnout, are the primary underlying drivers of cost growth in healthcare. These challenges will undoubtedly impact the increase in healthcare costs over the coming years, adding to the already-struggling public hospitals’ woes.

To address these pressing issues and secure the future of Australia’s public hospitals, the AMA calls on IHACPA to index the 2024-25 National Efficient Price (NEP) appropriately. Without wider health system reforms to alleviate pressure on public hospitals, the current crisis will persist.

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