Public Hospitals Policy "More Beds, Less Desks"

17 Sep 2004

AMA President, Dr Bill Glasson, said today that Australia needs an unprecedented level of cooperation and teamwork between the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments to ensure that more health funding is channelled directly to patient care and not to new and inefficient bureaucracy.

Dr Glasson was speaking in Canberra where eight of the country's leading health and medical organisations gathered to call for better policies for public hospitals.

"We need more public hospital beds and less desks - less bureaucracy," Dr Glasson said.

"The key to better care and better value for every health funding dollar is to improve the links and coordination between the public hospital, community and residential care sectors.

"Patients should be in the most appropriate care environment for their condition or ailment - be that an aged care place, a public hospital ward bed, or a bed in emergency.

"The AMA strongly supports the position that overcrowding and access block in public hospitals is a result of restricted funding that causes bed shortages and skilled medical workforce shortages.

"We have to get the ward bed numbers right.  Governments must adopt a mean maximum bed occupancy rate of 85 per cent as a key performances indicator for our public hospitals.

"Our public hospitals symbolise the health system for many Australians.

"Our public hospitals are national treasures.  Our Governments must nurture them, not starve them of resources.

"The Federal Government and the Opposition have the chance to show leadership and vision with policies to bolster our public hospitals to allow them to serve all Australians well into the future," Dr Glasson said.

The AMA's position on the funding and performance of public hospitals is contained in Key Health Issues for the 2004 Federal Election (see attached or go to the AMA website at ).

17 September 2004

CONTACT:                        John Flannery                        (02) 6270 5477 / (0419) 494 761

Medical Practice, Economics and Workforce


3.5       Public hospitals - Funding and performance


Australia's public hospitals are national treasures that are being allowed to suffer due to a combination of Government neglect at Federal and State level, overworked staff, and under funding.

They are also our great teaching hospitals for the next generation of doctors.  This role, too, is being diminished, because of under-funding and under-resourcing.

Key Issues for Patients

The five per cent per annum increase in public hospital funding under the current Australian Health Care Agreements (AHCAs) will not be enough to fund public hospitals in the coming five years.  Patient access will be threatened unless there is a cooperative effort between the Federal and State Governments.

Key Issues for Governments

The Federal Government needs to be prepared to review its indexation as the need arises and for States to match that indexation so that adequate funding is available.

The reform agenda under the AHCAs needs to be pursued. In particular, there is a need to improve the links between the acute care sector and the sub acute, community, residential aged care and primary care sectors.  A national pharmaceutical scheme with application in the community, and in public and private hospitals is also required.

AMA Position

The AMA wants the Federal and State Governments to work co-operatively to resolve the issues confronting the public hospital system.  Governments need to be collectively responsible for access and waiting list problems.  The reform agenda needs to be pursued particularly at the boundaries between aged and acute, and acute and community, and we recommend a national pharmaceutical program.

The AMA:

·         supports a process of incremental change to health service delivery built on funding partnerships between the Commonwealth, the States and Territories

·         encourages funding initiatives that address the obstacles brought about by the interaction between the hospital, community and residential care sectors

·         supports the position that the primary cause of overcrowding and access block in Emergency Departments is the restriction of funding to the public hospitals and the consequent shortage of beds and hospital workforce

·         calls on State and Federal Governments to adopt a mean maximum bed occupancy of 85 per cent as a key performance indicator for public hospitals

calls for greater cooperation between the education sector and the Commonwealth and State Governments to ensure that public hospitals have sufficient funding and infrastructure to continue providing 'world's best' medical training and research.

Media Contacts


 02 6270 5478
 0427 209 753

Follow the AMA

‌ @AustralianMedicalAssociation