More money must be pumped into public hospitals which are failing to meet key targets on patient care, says the Australian Medical Association.
The AMA’s latest report card on the nation’s public hospitals shows just 68 per cent of urgent, emergency department patients are being seen within the recommended 30 minutes.
AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton says the true picture on elective surgery could be far worse, because the official data only captures those who are on waiting lists. Many others were still waiting to see specialists and they weren’t reflected in the figures.
Dr Hambleton said the former Labor government cut $134 million from public hospitals in 2012/13.
“The current government is planning to spend about $400 million less on public hospitals over the next three years. That’s a real concern because we are not making targets,” Dr Hambleton said.
It also shows the average wait time for elective surgery has not improved since 2010/11, and still sits at about 36 days. The report reflects data gathered in the 2012/13 financial year.
“The real measure is the difference between when the GP refers the patient and when they finally get treated; that hidden waiting list is hard to actually measure,” Dr Hambleton told reporters in Brisbane.
The report card also showed there are just 2.6 public hospital beds for every 1000 people – a 43 per cent drop in 10 years.
Dr Hambleton said the report showed how vital it was for the federal government to boost hospital funding and abandon $400 million in cuts planned over the next three years.
“It’s very disturbing that we’ve got these figures showing our hospitals are under pressure and yet the funding may not be there,” Dr Hambleton said. “This is not the time to cut funding.”
The report said no state or territory had met the target of seeking 80 per cent of emergency department patients within half an hour – a key objective under the National Partnership Agreement.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday the federal government isn’t in a position to improve the health of public hospital budgets, but hopes to be able to inject some cash once the economy gets stronger.
He said the former Labor government had cut hospital funding and at this point in time, it wasn’t realistic to reverse those cuts.
He agreed every public hospital was under budget pressures, but said the federal government needed to have higher tax revenues to be able to invest more in health.