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Public Hospital Report Card evidence of funding shortfalls: AMA

The AMA Public Hospital Report released today is evidence that all state governments need to re-negotiate the COAG 2020–25 hospital funding, the AMA says.

At the launch of the Report Card in Brisbane this morning, AMA president Dr Michael Gannon stressed that the “public hospital funding crisis” was the responsibility of all Australian governments.

“The blame game must end, we must take the politics out of public hospital funding. It is time to end the sneaky cost shifts,” Gannon said.

“The current funding formula will doom our public hospitals to fail, and patients will suffer as a result. It is not just a commonwealth responsibility; all governments need to urgently lift their game.

“The average annual growth in federal health funding of 2.8 per cent over the past five years and 4.3 per cent over the decade is too low. Equally, funding by the states has not kept pace with health inflation, with average growth rates of just 3.2 per cent over the last five years and 4.3 per cent over the decade.

“Put bluntly, the current COAG agreement is a funding formula for failure.”

Dr Gannon said the latest commonwealth funding offer at February’s COAG meeting would lead to continuing underperformance in hospitals due to insufficient capacity.

The AMA also expressed disappointment that the 2018 Report Card “confirms the continuing downward trend” in the health sector.

Statistics revealed public hospitals are treating more people each year but bed to population ratios remain static.

Waiting times in emergency departments have also worsened, with only 66 per cent of urgent presentations seen within the recommended 30-minute timeframe last year.

Dr Gannon said there needed to be greater recognition of the vital role of public hospitals in the health system, and long-term funding given accordingly.

“We have an ageing population and greater numbers of people with chronic and complex diseases, and our hospitals are increasingly required to meet the needs of more and more Australians,” he said.

“Public hospitals are the first port of call for emergency care and intensive care, and are the only choice of treatment for patients with urgent conditions like severe burns; they are also the only option for many Australians who live in rural and remote areas, and for the millions of Australians who don’t have or can’t afford private health insurance.

“As well as treating patients, public hospitals are the training ground for the future medical workforce, and they are the centres where medical innovation is developed and new treatments are carried out.

“If our public hospitals cannot increase their capacity to meet patient and community demand – and perform their vital training, research and innovation functions – there is greater pressure placed on general practice and the private health sector.”

During the announcement, Gannon also recognised the healthcare workers across the public hospital system.

“Despite the challenging conditions brought about by funding shortfalls, our public hospitals and their amazing staff are delivering high quality care to their communities – but the pressure must not be allowed to continue,” Gannon said.

“Safety and quality cannot improve in our public hospitals under these conditions, and the sickest patients who present to emergency and need admission should not have to wait in emergency for hours because hospital resources are rationed too thin.”

The AMA Public Hospital Report card 2018 can be viewed at: at https://ama.com.au/ama-public-hospital-report-card-2018.

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