AMA calls for an end to the public hospital funding blame game

15 Feb 2013

AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2013

The AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2013 confirms the pattern of recent years of no real improvement in the capacity and performance at the local level in public hospitals across the country, despite increased Federal funding.

The latest AMA Report Card covers the period to 2011-12 using the most recent comprehensive data published by the Federal Government.  It provides a consistent analysis of public hospital activity over time.  This form of ‘time series’ information is not available in Government reports.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that there had been an almost 10 per cent increase in Federal Government funding over the period 2008-09 to 2010-11, but there was no real change in performance measures for public hospitals and little progress towards meeting the targets set by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) over that period and into 2011-12.

“When measured against key capacity and performance indicators, the Australian public hospital system is not meeting the clinical demands being placed upon it,” Dr Hambleton said.

“As a result, we are now seeing Governments blame each other for any failings in the system – and this can only get worse in an election year.

“The AMA calls on all Governments to stop the blame game and work together to maximise the effectiveness of every health dollar in providing quality care for patients.

“It is time that our Governments worked together on the ‘fix it’ game.  We need to see collaboration, not confrontation.”

Dr Hambleton said the clear message from the AMA Report Card is that no Government should be reducing its public hospital funding at this time, for any reason.

“Federal payments to most State and Territory Governments for public hospital services will be less this year as a result of claimed adjustments for population estimates and a health cost index,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Late last year, some State and Territory Governments announced their own budget reductions for public hospitals.

“It is unacceptable for any Government to introduce reductions in funding as it can only further reduce capacity in a health system that is already under enormous strain and putting patient safety and quality of care at risk.

“If public hospitals are to stand any chance of meeting the needs of the community and performing according to the agreed standard, both levels of Government have to take full responsibility for providing the required funding.”

Key findings of the AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2013 include:

  • the number of public hospital beds per capita, which is the strongest measure of capacity, is static.  There are only 2.6 public hospital beds for every 1000 people, which has not changed since 2009-10;
  • there has been no change in the capacity of public hospitals to admit patients to wards from emergency departments more quickly, or to perform more elective surgeries;
  • every State and Territory performed well below the national performance target of 80 per cent for public hospital emergency department Category 3 patients. These patients should be seen within 30 minutes.  Performance nationally was only 66 per cent, which means that over a third of these patients were not seen within the recommended time.
  • nationally, in 2011-12, 64 per cent of all emergency department visits were completed in four hours or less, well short of the 90 per cent target to be achieved by the end of 2015;
  • only Western Australia met (and in fact exceeded) the first interim National Emergency Access Target.  NSW, Victoria and the Northern Territory did not even meet their baseline for this performance target;
  • the number of public hospital elective surgeries performed in 2011-12 across Australia was 661,707.  This was an increase of around 5.5 per cent over the number of elective surgery admissions in 2010-11 (627,184);
  • 2.7 per cent (17,866) of the patients admitted for elective surgery in 2011-12 waited for more than a year for their elective surgery;
  • while an estimated 81 per cent of category 2 elective surgery patients (those who should be admitted within 90 days) were admitted on time, this is well below the new performance benchmark of 100 per cent set by COAG; and
  • median waiting times for elective surgery have substantially deteriorated over time.  In 2011-12, the median waiting time was 36 days, no change from the previous year.  Ten years ago, the median waiting time was only 27 days.

The AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2013 is available at 

15 February 2013

CONTACT:         John Flannery                       02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

                            Kirsty Waterford                  02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

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