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Directing media spotlight to public hospital funding crisis

The AMA keeps the pressure on governments to recognise and find a national solution for the crisis in public hospitals.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid earlier this week was interviewed on public hospital funding on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing program about the pressures facing our public hospital system.

He said the AMA was calling on the Federal Government and states and territories to recognise and act to find a national solution for the crisis in public hospitals.

“In every state and territory, public hospitals were overwhelmed before COVID, and of course we are seeing right now in NSW and Victoria the impact of COVID, on top of the already very large demand on public hospitals,” he said.

Dr Khorshid said there had been an underinvestment in public hospitals and all levels of government had to work together to get a fairer 50/50 funding split between the Federal Government and the states.

“The most important starting point is to go back to the patient, to the average Australian, who wants to know that there is a hospital bed available for them if they get sick in the next couple of years,” he said.

“Now, we can play a blame game, but at the end of the day we need more money into the sector, we need to fix the long-term underinvestment that has been a reality for decades now and the AMA is asking governments to work together, rather than blame each other for who is spending enough money and who is not.

“I think we are going to see a fundamental change in the way that hospitals run and that is going to be for the foreseeable future. So there are going to be built-in extra costs in the health system and it is absolutely appropriate for there to be a 50/50 split for funding .

“And of course the level of government with the deepest pockets and the ability to deliver a national solution is our Commonwealth Government. But that doesn’t mean the states do not need to pull their weight and the last thing we want to see is the Commonwealth putting in more money and States putting in less – that would be a disaster.” See the ABC interview here (27:27 minutes in).

AMA Vice President Dr Chris Moy was quoted last Friday in a front-page article in the Australian, which was headlined, “Overrun hospitals ill-prepared”.

He said the health system was facing a “perfect storm” of trying to deal with rising numbers of COVID patients and the growing backlog of patients forced to wait for urgent elective surgery.

“The health system does not just look after COVID and it’s already full,” Dr Moy said. “We are seeing COVID on top of the existing chronic pressures in a perfect storm and it is really basically causing the hospital system to overflow and be overwhelmed.

“What happens is that people either do not get the care or it gets displaced. Diagnoses are made at much later points and people get worse or they die. Adverse outcomes will be increasingly likely.”

The article was about a discussion paper drawn up by top health officials from four states and presented to a roundtable of Health Ministers with warnings that the hospital system was buckling under the strain of not only COVID-19 but also routine care.

Doctors warned that conditions deemed to be low priority would develop into life-threatening emergencies as treatment was deferred because of a lack of resources.

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