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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Surgeon speaks up against insurer blame game and vilification of in-theatre technicians

Health Industry Hub | November 28, 2022 |

MedTech News: Private Healthcare Australia (PHA) continues its attempts to control the narrative of increased cost in the private healthcare system.

In the past couple of years PHA has focussed on blaming surgeons for charging excessive fees, private hospitals charging larger fees for a number of services and medtech companies having higher costs for medical devices compared to other countries. The latest target on their agenda is medical device technicians and representative who are allegedly upselling products to surgeons in operating theatres.

Dr Nigel Hartnett, a knee and orthopaedic surgeon in Melbourne took to social media to set the record straight. He said “I can categorically say that no rep I use in theatre tries and ‘sells’ any product to myself. That is reserved for the end of a clinic, if required. I do not agree at all with what has been said. I have a number of device reps in my theatre for teaching and upskilling new reps to the industry. That is only fair and just for them. To suggest that surgeons are being ‘sold products’ whilst they are operating is irresponsible and detracts from the surgeon ‘operating, which is and should be the main focus’. Reps in my theatre are indispensable. They are my friends, they are a fountain and wealth of knowledge, and in all honesty are there to help the nursing staff more than myself. They help set up, they help coordinate, they help manage flow, and they are most welcome in my theatre.

“It is about time that PHA look internally as to why health costs are rising and seek solutions from all parties rather than constantly blaming everyone else but themselves and their members for what is becoming a shambles in hospital care in Australia.”

Yvonne Simpson, Regional Sales Manager at Applied Medical, reflected on her personal experience in the medtech sector. She said “I’ve worked in the industry for 26 years and always have respected the privilege of being invited into theatre. My perspective is that I would hope if it was my family member in theatre, I would hope they would be treated with the same level of respect.

“My colleagues and I have been called out on weekends for no pay but for the commitment to the role, I’ve personally attended a case on Christmas Day at the request of a surgeon. I’ve never received a holiday as a bonus or any of the benefits that were mentioned in the [ABC] article.”

Dr Hartnett added “All areas of the health industry have issues, but for one particular organisation to consistently attack and deflect is a failure to understand context and nuance. The Australian healthcare system has some huge faults but we need to work as a collective group to improve rather than fixating on one group after another and saying it is someone else’s fault.”

In fact, for months, key stakeholders in the healthcare sector have pointed to the accumulation of profits that the private health insurers are sitting on and instead if returning the required premiums to members

The Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Michael Roff said last week “…private health insurance companies have saved $2.7 billion since March 2020 due to the reduction in private hospital activity. At the same time, their income has increased as 256,768 more Australians took up private health hospital cover during the year. In addition, insurance companies are starting to accrue the benefits of Prostheses List cuts that took effect in July, saving them $14 million in the first quarter alone. These savings will accumulate and grow as further price reductions come into effect.”

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