Public hospitals failing patients on waiting lists

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Public hospitals are consistently failing their patients by choosing to prioritise the privately insured over public patients, a trend that is continuing to grow, says Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Mr Michael Roff.

Referencing the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, “Admitted patient care 2016-17: Australian hospital statistics,” Mr Roff said there were almost a million privately insured separations in public hospitals in 2016-17 – a 4.6 percent increase on the previous 12 months, an average increase of 7.4 percent every year since 2012-13.

He said public hospitals had not shied away from reaping the benefits of private health insurance payouts, while forcing those on public waiting lists to continue doing just that – wait.

“The latest data shows privately insured patients continue to jump the queue in public hospitals. The median wait time for elective surgery for a public patient is 42 days. That’s twice as long as the privately insured, who wait a median of 21 days,” he said.

The AIHW report comes hard on the heels of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s March quarter health insurance figures, which revealed a four percent increase in privately insured patients treated in public hospitals.

“The increasing reliance on private health insurance funds in the public hospital setting is showing no sign of abating, despite the obvious pressure it places on public waiting lists and impact on premiums. “One in seven public admissions were for privately insured patients in 2016-17 – that’s 14 percent of all admissions to public hospitals.”

Mr Roff said that removing this $1.5 billion impost on private health insurance would immediately reduce health insurance premiums by up to six percent. This would be a win for both patients on public hospital waiting lists as well as the privately insured, but will not become a reality if public hospitals remain addicted to the cash grab.

“The evidence is piling up that public hospitals are wilfully contributing to longer waiting times for their public patients, who pay the price, living with reduced quality of life while they wait for surgery,” he said.

“It’s well past time they started putting patients, not profits, first,” he said.

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