Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Healthcare Waiting Game Down Under has this piece on the wait for medical treatment in Australia.

Evidence shows hopitals must be overhauled

FIGURES showing a blowout in elective surgery waiting lists highlighted the need for major health reforms, Labor said today.
Opposition health spokeswoman Julia Gillard said the Federal Government had to realise the evidence in support of major overhauls of the hospital system could no longer be ignored.

Figures published in The Australian today showed patients across the nation were waiting in longer than ever for basic elective surgery procedures despite millions of dollars of taxpayers' money being poured into the health system.

Ms Gillard said Health Minister Tony Abbott "must recognise the improved health outcomes that can be achieved, the savings that can be made, the need to end the blame and cost shifting, the value of integrating the public and private sectors and the absolute requirement of a hospital system that can respond to individual and national needs." She said Mr Abbott was "not brave enough to tackle the big issues".

Figures obtained by The Australian show the average waiting time for a knee replacement increased by more than a month in South Australia and the ACT to 160 days and 204 days respectively. Surgeons are calling for the health system to be restructured, warning that more funding alone will not fix the problem.

"Governments are trying to make an unworkable system look good," said Don Sheldon, associate professor of surgery at the University of Sydney.

State governments are estimated to have spent more than $240 million in the past two years to cut elective surgery waiting times.

The average wait for a total hip replacement blew out from 107 to 132 days in South Australia, 136 to 154 days in the ACT, 48 to 52 days in Queensland and 113 to 127 in Victoria.

In New South Wales, almost 17 per cent of patients who needed surgery to repair a perforated eardrum waited more than a year; in South Australia, 23 per cent waited more than a year.

Health ministers in Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory would not release the 2003-04 figures. Waiting times improved most significantly in NSW and Victoria. However, the 2003-04 statistics, which will be released in May, reveal that across most states waiting times increased more often than they fell.

Professor Sheldon said operating theatres remained closed and beds lay empty as public hospitals struggled to cope with greater demand for health services. "There's a lot of rearranging of deckchairs on the Titanic, but we need to look at what's causing the problem."

Australian Healthcare Association executive director Prue Power, whose group represents public hospitals, said waiting times would remain lengthy until the system was restructured to allow greater analysis of how money was being spent.

The states and territories spend $7.5 billion a year on public hospitals.

Ms Power said policy makers were underestimating the strain the ageing population had put on public hospitals.

"People are living longer and technology is improving so that we can put prostheses into the hips and knees of elderly patients and that obviously increases costs."

University of Adelaide professor of surgery Guy Madden said older patients in particular were waiting longer for elective surgery.

"The resources are being dragged into the more urgent areas, and patients waiting for elective surgery to treat degenerative conditions are waiting longer, and they are often older patients," he said.

Dr Sheldon said the elderly often needed more expensive treatment than younger patients. "Now you see people in their 90s having open-heart surgery and elderly patients are more likely to end up in intensive care. A bed in intensive care costs $2000 a day to run, compared to about $1000 a day for an ordinary bed in a public hospital."

Hospital administrators were trying to treat more patients with fewer resources, he said.

"Many smaller hospitals have closed and in some large hospitals you've got 450 beds doing the same work that almost 2000 beds were doing 30 years ago."

I bet Australian dental patients are happy that for the most part dentistry is delivered privately. No NHS dentistry in Australia.

As you can see the NHS medical system there is broken like in the U.K and Canada

Hat Tip: Socialized Medicine

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