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Public hospital performance stagnating due to lack of funding: AMA

Public hospital performance stagnating due to lack of funding: AMA - Featured Image

The Australian Medical Association has launched its Public Hospital Report Card 2016, and says results point to an imminent crisis.

The report card shows key performance measures such as emergency department waiting times, elective surgery waiting time and bed number ratios have either deteriorated or are stagnant.

AMA President Professor Brian Owler said these results are a direct consequence of reduced funding from the Commonwealth.

“The States and Territories are facing a public hospital funding ‘black hole’ from 2017 when growth in Federal funding slows to a trickle,” Professor Owler said.

“From July 2017, the Commonwealth will strictly limit its contribution to public hospital costs.

“Growth in Commonwealth funding will be restricted to indexation using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and population growth only.

“Treasury advised the Senate Economics Committee that this change will reduce Commonwealth public hospital funding by $57 billion over the period, 2017-18 to 2024-25.

“As a result, hospitals will have insufficient funding to meet the increasing demand for services,” Professor Owler said.

Related: Patients face longer delays as ‘perfect storm’ set to hit stressed public hospitals

The current report card shows that:

  • Hospital bed to population numbers have remained constant despite there being an increased demand for hospital services
  • 68% of emergency department patients classified as urgent were seen within the recommended 30 minutes. The target for this is 80%
  • Under the National Emergency Access Target (NEAT), 90% of patients should be treated within four hours of presentation to an Emergency Department. In 2014/15, only 73% were treated in this time frame.
  • Under the National Elective Surgery Target (NEST), 100% of all urgency category patients waiting for surgery should be treated within the clinically recommended time however in 2014-15, 78% of elective surgery category 2 patients were admitted within the clinically recommended time (within 90 days).

Professor Owler believes it’s a lack of focus on public hospitals since the 2014 budget that has led to poorer outcomes.

He told ABC Breakfast: “The incentives and funding was there for infrastructure and [indistinct] ward funding was all taken away. And, naturally enough, we’ve seen these performances stripped backwards.”

He also said emergency departments are under increased stress with an increase of patients.

“We’re seeing more and more patients present to emergency, and they’re not GP-type patients; these are higher triage category patients, they’re sicker patients. These are the patients that are actually – represent the growth in the presentations to our hospitals.”

Related: Hospital cuts cloud reform outlook

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said the government’s decision to walk away from Labor’s funding agreement with the states and territories would lead to further increase in emergency department wait times and big increases in elective surgery wait times.

“Patently, the current arrangements are inadequate and demonstrate that this government has no interest in health reform or ensuring every Australian has access to high quality hospital care,” she said in a statement.

Health Minister Sussan Ley has previously denied the AMA’s claims that multi-billion dollar “black hole” for hospitals.


“What we are focused on in the Federal Government — and what all governments should be — is efficiency,” she said in April 2015.

“Let’s get the best bang for our dollar, wherever it goes.”

The AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2016 is available at https://ama.com.au/ama-public-hospital-report-card-2016

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