Record-breaking ambulance ramping in Perth, a delay in elective surgeries in WA due to overwhelming demand, disturbing incidences of hospitals unable to cope across the country, questions raised in the Senate estimates, and stories coming from NSW Parliament’s inquiry into hospital services in rural and regional areas, has forced the issue on to the national agenda.
The AMA says the National Cabinet must urgently move to shared 50/50 Commonwealth State funding for public hospitals, and remove the artificial cap that stops our system meeting community demand.
“We need funding so patients are cared for in beds, not trapped in the back of ramped ambulances.
“Our hospital performance continues to decline. Prior to the pandemic Australians were waiting 41 days for elective surgery – 8 days longer than in 2008-09.
“We’ve got the lowest rate of beds per 1,000 people over the age of 65 years. It’s declined 26 years in a row.
“Emergency department performance, as outlined in the AMA’s Public Hospital Report Card, has also declined in recent years.
“National Cabinet should take this opportunity to urgently reform public hospital funding because hospitals are not just a ‘State’ issue, nor a ‘Federal’ issue – they are a ‘National’ issue. It requires national leadership and we need the Prime Minister and Premiers, and all Health ministers, to work together.
Furthermore, under the National Health Reform Agreement, the Commonwealth caps its increased contribution to public hospitals to 6.5% growth year on year, which limits the ability of states to respond to demand.
The AMA says while the current activity-based funding model has achieved some positive outcomes, such as improved transparency and efficiency, it was designed to work alongside other funding mechanisms, including funding to improve performance and expand capacity.
Dr Khorshid said, “Our public hospitals are suffering, more than ever, we need to fund them to be better, not just busier with funding that helps them improve – not one that penalises them when they fail.
“Australians when waiting with a sick child or family member don’t care about funding models or which level of bureaucracy is responsible, they care that there are enough doctors, nurses and beds to give them the emergency care they need, at the time they need it.
“And doctors are sick of hearing about ‘record’ funding – AMA’s own analysis shows the current mechanism has literally stripped away billions in funding – just from inadequate indexation and caps on funding.
“We rose to the challenge of COVID. We need to rise to the challenge facing our hospitals with the same sense of urgency.”