Tue. Dec 5th, 2023

Only three out of 201 public hospitals across Australia are providing care within recommended timeframes, and none of the hospitals in the New England, according to a report by the Australian Medical Association (AMA).

The organisation says the public health sector is struggling with pressures due to continued workforce shortages, increased ambulance ramping, energy departments beyond capacity and the unavailability of hospital beds, and have renewed their call for 50-50 federal and state funding of hospitals.

The analysis and concerns are not new, but are demonstrably getting worse. The same AMA report a year ago found only 15 of 201 hospitals got a ‘green light’ rating.

The findings come as national cabinet prepares to meet on Friday to discuss healthcare reforms. Hot on the agenda will be the GP crisis, and proposals to roll out a single employer model for GP training across the nation. Notably, the three hospitals that did meet their time frames according to the AMA report – Deniliquin, Narrandera, and Young – are all in the Murrumbidgee Health District where the single employer model has been in place since 2020.

Also on the agenda will be the collapse of bulk billing and the need for reform in Medicare, with Health Minister Mark Butler signalling in an interview on ABC Radio National Breakfast he’s looking for a more comprehensive reform than just lifting the rebate rate.

Pressures on state hospital systems are inevitably linked to access to GP care, but the issue of hospital funding may need to wait its turn in the intense agenda.

AMA president Professor Steve Robson said the AMA has also been calling on the federal government to increase its share of hospital funding from 45 to 50 per cent, and to remove the annual cap on activity.  

“For their part, the states and territories need to commit to improve hospital performance by re-investing that extra five per cent.”

“And both need to fund additional ongoing performance improvement, capacity expansion, and ways to reduce avoidable admissions.” 

“We want ministers to tackle the backlog of surgeries that we estimate will top half a million at the end of June, because it’s devastating for every person waiting and dealing with months and months of pain,” Professor Robson said.

The AMA report revealed Tamworth Hospital is one of the worst performing in the state, with only 62% of emergency patients, 57% of urgent cases and 53% of semi-urgent cases being seen in the recommended timeframes.

Other region hospitals scored much higher, with the next lowest for emergency care being Inverell and Armidale, which both saw 80% of emergency patients within the recommended time frame.

Patients can look up their local hospital’s score on the AMA Hospital Logjam tool.

Have something to say about this story? Submit your own opinion piece, or quick word, to The Net.