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04 Dec 2012

At its weekend meeting in Canberra, the AMA Federal Council unanimously passed an urgency motion condemning recent cuts to public hospital funding by the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments.

The motion reads:

That Federal Council notes that the Australian public hospital system is not meeting the clinical demands and performance targets placed on it.  The AMA believes there should be no reduction in the funding of public hospitals by post hoc adjustment of the health funding agreements.  The AMA considers that it is unacceptable for any government to introduce reductions in funding as it can only further reduce capacity in the system, and calls for a significant increase in resource allocation to health.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that, in December, Commonwealth payments to State and Territory Governments for public hospital services were reduced as a result of adjustments for population estimates and a health cost index.

“These adjustments cover funding for services that have already been provided to patients – it is money that has already been spent,” Dr Hambleton said.

“In real terms, there will be less money for future public hospital services to patients.

“This can only have a negative impact on the timeliness and quality of care that patients receive in the public sector, as hospitals have to do more with less.

“These adjustments come on top of recent cuts to public hospital funding by State and Territory Governments.

“The cuts must stop – the public hospital system has nothing more to give.

“Efficiency can only be achieved by engaging fully with the frontline hospital staff, especially the clinicians.

“We can all work to improve productivity and do more with the same funding, but in health it’s impossible to do more with less.

“The AMA calls for all levels of government to increase, not decrease, resource allocation to health,” Dr Hambleton said.

Background
  • The public hospital sector is not meeting the demands being placed upon it.
  • The number of public hospital beds per capita continues to decline.  In 2010-11, 872 new beds were opened across the country, but this simply maintained the number of public hospital beds per 1000 population at 2.6 per cent.
  • In 2011-12, the percentage of emergency department patients classified as urgent who were seen within the recommended 30 minutes was 66 per cent, well short of the 2013 target of 80 per cent.
  • 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.  Several States failed to meet even the baseline performance target, let alone the incremental target for the first year of this new performance measure.
  • The AMA estimates that, in 2011-12, the percentage of Category 2 elective surgery patients seen within the clinically recommended time of 90 days was 81 per cent.  At the same time, the national median waiting time for elective surgery was 36 days.

4 December 2012

CONTACT:         John Flannery                       02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

                        Kirsty Waterford                   02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

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Published: 04 Dec 2012