Hospitals in Crisis from Funding Cuts
28 January 2016 at 11:15 am
Public hospitals are facing an “imminent crisis” as Federal Government funding cuts make it harder for hospitals to meet growing patient demand, according to a performance snapshot released by Australia’s peak medical body.
The Australian Medical Association’s Public Hospital Report Card 2016 showed that, against key measures, the performance of public hospitals was stagnant, and even declining, in key areas.
The report card found that, nationally, only 68 per cent of emergency department patients classified as urgent were seen within the recommended 30 minutes, and no state or territory met the the 2015 National Emergency Access Target of patients being treated within four hours.
Performance in Victoria and Western Australia was below their 2013 targets, and performance in South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT was below their 2012 targets, and the Northern Territory’s performance failed to meet their baseline for this target.
Hospital bed to population numbers have also remained constant over recent years, while there has been increasing demand for hospital services.
AMA President Professor Brian Owler said the results were disappointing and the situation was set to worsen in coming years
“Public hospital funding is about to become the single biggest challenge facing state and territory finances – and the dire consequences are already starting to show,” Professor Owler said.
“The states and territories are facing a public hospital funding black hole from 2017 when growth in Federal funding slows to a trickle.”
Acting CEO of ACOSS, Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine, told Pro Bono Australia News that too much of the public health budget was spent on hospital services, with inadequate investment in preventative health initiatives.
“We continuously fail to prevent a whole range of conditions, like chronic diseases, that significantly inhibit people’s health and wellbeing while also placing an unsustainable burden on our health system,” Dr Boyd-Cain said.
“Stronger investment in preventive health care and supporting people to adopt healthier lifestyles would save significant future health care costs, yet government policies have moved entirely in the opposite direction, like abolishing the national preventive health agency.”
Prof Owler said the performance of public hospitals was a direct consequence of reduced growth in the Commonwealth’s funding of public hospitals.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
In the 2015-16 Budget, Commonwealth funding for public hospitals was reduced by $423 million for the three years. A further $31 million was cut in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO).