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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Inaugural summit demands government action for overburdened public hospitals

Health Industry Hub | March 19, 2024 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: Leaders from more than 50 of Australia’s medical institutions convened in Canberra yesterday. The mission: to confront the glaring issues plaguing the nation’s health system and demand immediate reforms.

Ahead of the summit, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) released its pre-budget submissions, laying bare the dire state of public hospitals and general practice. With a tone of palpable concern, AMA President Professor Steve Robson emphasised that while Australia’s health system was once the envy of the world, it now buckled under extraordinary pressure.

“We know that our public hospitals are in logjam with patients waiting sometimes years just to see a specialist and get on a waiting list for elective surgery; let alone the wait for surgery,” Professor Robson stated.

The Bureau of Health Information’s latest analysis of NSW public hospitals confirmed the staggering reality: over 88,600 patients stranded in a labyrinth of waiting lists at the end of December 2023 – down 10.7% (10,639) from the same quarter the previous year and similar to pre-pandemic levels. Many of these patients are left struggling with daily activities because of severe pain and limited mobility.

Professor Robson added “Meanwhile, everyone, including Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler, acknowledges the health workforce shortages facing the country, with access and lack of planning continuing to be a problem.” 

A/Professor Kerin Fielding, Federal President of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), highlighted the urgency of collaboration to alleviate the strain on the health system.

“We understand the problems in the public health system – we have a lack of availability of procedures, a backlog of waiting lists after COVID, and it’s really important that we work together and collaborate to try and improve this symptom of a system that is under strain,” she said.

A recent study in lung cancer showed that even a 15-day delay in surgery led to statistically significant increase in 30-/90-day mortality and decreased 5-year survival rates.

In a resounding call for unity, Dr Nicole Higgins, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), stressed the unprecedented nature of the summit, urging collective efforts to bridge the gap in healthcare access and workforce deficiencies.

“Never before have all of the medical colleges and those involved in the healthcare sector met together to collaborate, to coordinate and to discuss solutions for our healthcare system. We’re here to work with the government to find solutions around access, around workforce, and improving healthcare delivery to all Australians, irrespective of where you live and where you earn and where you work,” she stated.

Dr Stephen Gourley, President of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, underscored the urgent need for systemic change to combat overcrowded emergency departments. Delays can cause patients’ conditions to deteriorate and can increase patient mortality by up to 30%, according to the CSIRO.

“I know firsthand what it’s like to work in a rural/regional area, and the challenges that really face people in those areas. About one third of Australia’s population lives rurally, and we really need to be stepping up. Our overcrowded emergency departments are a symptom of the failing health system that we’ve got at the moment. What we’re doing right now isn’t working. We need fundamental change to the system,” Dr Gourley emphasised.

Despite the federal government’s announced boost in public hospital funding last December, Professor Robson cautioned against complacency. The $13.2 billion injection into the system, though promising, wouldn’t take effect until next year, leaving hundreds of thousands of patients stranded in a limbo of endless waitlists and hospital ramping.

With the May federal budget looming, the AMA’s plea for a combined $4.12 billion to address the backlog until the new National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA) kicks in resonated across the summit.

In a bid to tackle workforce shortages head-on, the AMA’s budget submission called for the establishment of an independent agency tasked with providing evidence-based solutions. Additionally, reform of the private health system took centre stage, with the AMA advocating for the establishment of an independent Private Health System Authority to oversee much-needed changes.

As the nation grapples with the repercussions of a strained health system, the resounding message from Canberra reverberates: urgent action is paramount, collaboration is non-negotiable, and reform is imperative.

In reimagining healthcare across the entire patient journey, Health Industry HubTM is the only one-stop-hub bringing the diversity of Pharma, MedTech, Diagnostics & Biotech sectors together to inspire meaningful change.

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