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Public hospitals missing the mark

Report shows emergency departments, elective surgeries aren’t meeting benchmarks for timely service.

Most states have failed to meet agreed upon performance targets for elective surgery and emergency departments, despite some improvements, according to COAG’s latest report.

Findings from the second National Partnership on Improving Public Hospitals report revealed that “no state or territory fully achieved its target for the proportion of people treated, discharged or referred within 4 hours”.

This means that it’s almost impossible for any state or territory to achieve all 2015 targets, COAG Reform Council chairman John Brumby said.

“For elective surgery, the ACT and NSW performed well, with the ACT achieving eight out of nine benchmark targets and NSW achieving seven of nine,” Brumby said. “However, other states and territories did not perform well, and results in Tasmania and Queensland were particularly concerning, with both states achieving just one benchmark.”

Brumby called for the government to use the findings to help focus efforts on providing timely emergency department care and elective surgery.

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association chief executive Alison Verhoeven said a number of agencies had reported data similar to the findings but she is encouraged by the government’s move to streamline processes.

However, she is also concerned that progress already made in reaching elective surgery and emergency access targets might soon slow down or come to a halt, particularly given the government’s move to end reward payments.

“We think we will see a tail off of the important work that was begun under the national reform agreement in the coming years and that is very unfortunate for the health of all Australians,” Verhoeven said.

Commenting on talk of the possibility of poor achievement ratings for hospitals against performance indicators, Verhoeven said she thinks they are the next logical step. However, she said adding them would raise some questions.

“If there are no rewards to sit alongside [the targets], it does not seem a particularly collaborative way of working moving forwards,” she said.

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