Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley has praised private hospitals for the contribution they make to Australia’s health system.
Speaking at the opening of Epworth Richmond’s new Lee Wing, Minster Ley said private hospitals were a vital and valued part of the healthcare system.
She said they played a key role in ensuring the wider system remained reliable and effective.
“It makes good sense at every level – for patients, for communities, for the economy and for the nation – to have private hospital and public health services complementing and working in harmony with each other,” Minister Ley said.
“But I think it is important that we acknowledge the contribution that private hospitals do make to the health system in Australia.
“Today, more than ever, private hospitals are providing community’s choice in health care through the broad range of services they provide.”
Minister Ley did, however, note the need for Australia’s private health insurance system to be overhauled to ensure the sector remains viable in the future.
She acknowledged consumers’ frustrations about rising premiums, saying they were hardly surprising given the increase over the past five years.
“The significant feedback…from the government’s consultations showed consumers are concerned about the affordability of their premiums…,” Minster Ley said.
“What has become clear to me is if we are to ensure all Australians have the opportunity to take out private health insurance there is a need for significant changes.
“Our reforms will put in place the key building blocks to transform the private health insurance system for the long-term benefit of patients which will.”
The opening of Epworth Richmond’s Lee Wing marks the end of stage one of a three stage master plan. The new wing includes 176 beds, six operating theatres and a new emergency department.
When stage three is completed, Epworth Richmond will be the biggest private hospital in Australia with 777 inpatient beds and 42 operating theatres.
Minister Ley said in addition to providing excellent care to the community, the hospital had made an impressive contribution to the local economy by creating hundreds of new jobs.
“I can say without hesitation the Australian government is very appreciative of the contribution that Epworth makes to our health and hospital sector,” she said.