Hospital funding extension doesn’t hide long-term capacity crisis

The AMA says the three-month emergency COVID 50-50 hospital funding extension will not address the underlying long-term funding crisis facing the public hospital system.

Although the AMA welcomes the short-term extension of COVID pandemic hospital funding, it will keep pushing for long-term solutions to the public hospital funding crisis, AMA President Omar Khorshid told the media following last week’s meeting of National Cabinet.

He told the Sydney Morning Herald that the extension of the National Partnership on COVID-19 50-50 hospital funding was a critical first step, however, negotiations over longer-term solutions to the hospitals crisis had to start with haste.

“The national partnership funding is critical to dealing with COVID demand now, but this short extension will not see us through the hospital crisis, nor through COVID,” Dr Khorshid said.

Dr Khorshid told ABC TV’s Afternoon Briefing that the National Cabinet extension of COVID emergency funding was “good news” because the Commonwealth had accepted its responsibility to assist the states run their hospitals.

“This is of course only COVID funding, but it does help the state’s cope with this extra demand that COVID has created in hospitals,” he said.

“It’s a short-term extension and you could look at it and say, ‘why is it only for three months because clearly COVID is with us longer than that?’”.

Dr Khorshid said he hoped that the extension until December and co-operation among leaders were positive signs of further detailed discussions about longer-term reforms to tackle underlying issues impacting hospitals.

“COVID has demonstrated how fragile our public hospitals are. The hospitals are in crisis right now today under current funding arrangements, which includes the extra COVID money.

“It’s important that we do not let our state leaders or the Commonwealth government off the hook in their talks about reform and focus on the area that needs the biggest reform, which is public hospitals.

“These problems have been present for decades. We should not let present discussions hide the other issue of the actual funding of the hospitals and making sure they are set at the right capacity to meet the needs of the community.”

The AMA is calling on state and territories and the federal government to work on drawing up a new National Health Reform Agreement where states and territories equally share hospital funding 50-50 with the commonwealth and the 6.5 per cent cap on growth is scrapped. The states would reinvest the freed-up 5 per cent into improving hospital performance and expanding capacity.

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