Members Health calls on Victoria to follow NSW and end private hospital restrictions

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Members Health says new data has revealed the impact of government-mandated hospital lockdown restrictions in Victoria.

Members Health represents not-for-profit and member-owned private health insurers.

Its new data has revealed significant declines in the number of eligibility checks for serious health conditions.

Eligibility checks are a leading indicator of current and future healthcare demand. Hospitals conduct checks with health insurers to determine patient eligibility to private health benefits prior to admission. Members Health collated data from 22 individual health insurers covering over 3 million people.

At the end of October, eligibility checks for skin-related procedures, such as time-critical removal of skin cancers had fallen 21 per cent.

Checks relating to kidney and bladder procedures had dropped 25 per cent, gynaecology related checks had decreased 34 per cent, gastrointestinal endoscopy checks had declined 25 per cent. Heart and vascular-related checks had fallen 11 per cent. Cataracts experienced the biggest hit, plummeting by 52 per cent from normal levels.

“The data we are seeing is unprecedented in Australia and signals an avalanche of complex and very serious health conditions on the way,” said Members Health CEO Matthew Koce.

“The longer the Victorian Government locks down our private hospitals, the worse things will get for people’s health and wellbeing.

“Living in pain and on powerful medication, with the added uncertainty of not knowing when surgery is going to resume, is having a crushing impact on people’s mental health and on their quality of life.”

Mr Koce said its data did reveal one bright spot.

“Checks for chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy for cancer have defied the wider decline, which is promising for future demand on those services,” he said.

“Victoria’s elective surgery lockdown means people being unable to see properly; people managing pain with strong opioids; people missing out on quality time with friends and family, and; the likelihood of surgery becoming more complex and a higher risk of poorer clinical outcomes,” said Mr Koce.

“The consequences of these draconian restrictions for people’s health and wellbeing are simply not worth it and can no longer be justified as being ‘in the public interest’.

“Delays in treatment also have a profound impact on mental health. The fact that psychiatric services have rebounded so quickly to 100 per cent is even more evidence of the toll this pandemic and these hospital restrictions are having on many Australians’ mental health.”

Mr Koce urged Victoria to follow New South Wales in lifting all private hospital day and overnight restrictions. New South Wales lifted these restrictions after it reached the 80 per cent fully vaccinated milestone.

The vast majority of the 83 overnight-stay private hospitals and all the 105 private day procedure clinics across Victoria, which remain under these harsh restrictions, are not equipped to admit or treat patients with COVID-19.

“It beggars belief why such indiscriminate restrictions are being applied to health facilities, which provide such critical care for so many Australians and represent such a minimal risk of exposure to the virus,” said Mr Koce.

“Victorians are doing their bit. They have exceeded the 80 per cent double vax milestone, so the Government must remove the shackles on private hospitals and allow people to get the care they so urgently need or risk triggering a massive shadow pandemic.

“Fully vaccinated people can go for a coffee, see a movie, meet with friends and head back to the office. But for those waiting in agony for elective surgery, there is no relief in sight.

“The Government must get out of the way, end what is effectively a takeover of the private hospital system and allow all private hospital elective surgery to resume immediately.”