APHA: Pressure has 'come back to bite' in Queensland

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The Australian Private Hospitals Association says the actions of the Queensland government in pressuring patients to use their private health insurance in public hospitals have 'come back to bite'.

The state government has announced it will pay private hospitals $3 million to treat public patients as a way to ease emergency and elective surgery lists.

This situation is "entirely of the State Government’s own making," said APHA CEO Michael Roff.

“Private hospitals are always willing to help out, that’s what we do, but the reality is that if public hospitals weren’t so blinded by the idea of making an extra dollar or two out of the privately insured, there would be enough beds for everyone.

“It is a cruel irony that Queensland Health is turning to private hospitals to treat public patients who can’t get a public hospital bed because they are full of private patients.

“Queensland has been increasing its reliance on privately insured patients treated in public hospitals. There were 134,000 private admissions in public hospitals in 2018. This means one in ten public hospitals beds is being taken up by privately insured patients every year," said Mr Roff.

According to a 2017 discussion paper from the federal Department of Health, the percentage of public hospital separations in Queensland funded by private health insurance had increased by 114 per cent since 2010-11.

Private Healthcare Australia has also criticised the state for imposing quotas on public hospitals, for privately insured patients, and for adopting a systematic approach to pressuring patients into being treated privately.

“Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt wrote to Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles a week ago asking them to stop this practice in the interest of patients, it should come as no surprise this is the situation Mr Miles finds himself in today,” said Mr Roff.

Mr Hunt, who describes the practice as "harvesting", also says it is unethical and inappropriate and adds to pressure on waiting lists.

“Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data from less than a year ago shows privately insured patients are being prioritised ahead of public patients. This goes against the principles of Medicare – access to care based on clinical need, not insurance status. “With its focus on making a buck, the Queensland Government has lost sight of its public hospitals’ main focus – to provide much needed health services to public patients,” added Mr Roff.