Patients attending Northern Rivers hospitals are being urged to let staff know if they’re privately insured.
The call comes as the Northern New South Wales Local Health District releases details of its latest budget.
Health board chairman Brian Pezzutti says an increase $23 million will cover rising costs and improve emergency facilities.
But he says money is still tight, and patients won’t be worse off if they use their insurance.
“We have a definite non-gap policy,” Dr Pezzutti said.
“If your arrangement with your insurer is that you pay the first $3-400, we do not charge you that.
“So we make sure we get as much money as we can out of the private funds and Medicare that we possibly can, without charging the patients a penny.”
The health service will spend about $632 million in the current financial year.
Dr Pezzutti says one-off expenses include improved emergency facilities at the Tweed and Lismore hospitals, and the appointment of a second orthopaedic surgeon at Grafton.
But he says the budget increase won’t stretch far.
“It does cover the cost of living and the increased wages that our nurses truly deserve, but it doesn’t necessarily keep track of the increased demand that’s placed on our system as our population ages,” Dr Pezzutti said.
“It’s getting there, but we do need to make sure that every dollar we spend is efficiently spent, because every dollar we waste means we can’t meet the needs of our community.”