Hospitals call for action on workforce to resolve 'missing' admissions

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The Australian Private Hospitals Association says the latest statistical update from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has revealed 445,000 missing admissions since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association said the update shows the gap between expected insured admissions in the private sector and what has been delivered is growing steadily with a further 55,000 added in the June 2022 quarter and 145,000 in the past year.

CEO Michael Roff said it is a worrying trend with state governments looking to private hospitals to help with public elective waiting lists.

“During this quarter there were no elective surgery restrictions, but private hospital capacity continued to be limited by staff shortages and absenteeism due to COVID-19 and flu. With infection rates declining it is hoped we can begin to address this backlog as we move into spring but it is going to take some time to remedy.”

Mr Roff said it was encouraging to see the increase in private hospital membership. “It is always encouraging to see Australians recognise the value of having access to the high-quality care private hospitals provide. This may, in part be due to the massive waiting times in the public sector and people wanting to know they can access health care more rapidly through Australia’s private hospitals.”

He said private hospitals need more access to health workers to meet current and future demand.

“The private hospital sector workforce crisis continues to grow. Internal surveys from Australia’s private hospitals show about 8,000 nurses are needed to fill positions around the country and in the short term we need to increase skilled migration to address this shortfall.

“There are a number of solutions, including doing more to make Australia an attractive place to come to by increasing residency and citizenship opportunities. In addition, cutting the fees for health workers to register in Australia and making it easier for employers to bring people here by reducing red tape are all options we would like the Government to act on.

“Australia also needs to think of the future Australian workforce and training the next generation of nurses. This is an area where private hospitals already offer training programs and have the capacity to do more.”