Public hospitals generate ‘vast majority’ of complaints

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Australian Private Hospitals Association chief executive Michael Roff has rejected claims by New South Wales (NSW) Health Minister Brad Hazzard that 80 percent of NSW patient complaints are about the private system.

Mr Roff said that in fact NSW public hospital patients are six times more likely to complain than patients treated in private hospitals.

The Minister claimed in the Sydney Morning Herald that the NSW public hospital system accounted for less than 20 percent of complaints in the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCC) annual report.

“Eighty percent of overall complaints were about the private system, which has a bit of work to do,” Mr Hazzard said.

Mr Roff said the Minister’s comments about the HCC report were incorrect and it was unfortunate that he had been poorly advised or had misunderstood the data, which clearly show the vast majority of complaints relate to public hospitals.

“When the Minister said the data showed ‘Eighty percent of overall complaints were about the private system, which has a bit of work to do’, he mistakenly included results from individual private practitioners. When private hospitals are separated out, the numbers tell a very different story.

“In 2015–16 there were 3,122,333 separations from NSW hospitals – 1,861,163 (59.6%) were from public hospitals. There were 1,261,170 (40.4%) separations from private hospitals.

“In the same year the Health Care Complaints Commission received 1137 complaints about hospitals. Of those, 1016 (89.4%) were about public hospitals and 121 (10.6%) were about private hospitals.“

Mr Roff said the Minister might be trying to deflect attention from his strategy of pursuing additional private patients in NSW public hospitals by allowing them to jump the queue ahead of genuine public patients.

“Data released earlier this year shows that public patients wait twice as long for admission to a public hospital compared to those with health insurance.

“If some public hospitals in NSW didn’t have private patients taking upwards of 25 percent of hospital beds real public patients could use, perhaps their waiting times and their performance would improve,” he said.

“The claim the private hospital system is failing its patients is completely false.

“Australians understand the vital role private hospitals play in taking the pressure off the stretched public hospital system, Mr Hazzard should too. In fact, he should stop encouraging the NSW public hospitals to chase private patients and let private hospitals get on with providing the high-quality health care that Australians value,” he said.

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