Members Health says demand for private health care services back to normal

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Members Health says patient demand for hospital consultations and treatments has rebounded to pre-COVID pandemic levels.

The association is the representative group of not-for-profit, member-owned, regional and community-based private health insurers.

It says the final instalment of its eligibility checks study, which is an indicator of hospital referrals from specialist consultations, shows bookings for services have returned to 103 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

“There was a noticeable lull in eligibility checks for non-urgent procedures as the COVID-19 restrictions on elective surgery took effect from March 21 to June 13,” said Members Health CEO Matthew Koce.

“But this round of data, along with already published evidence from Australia’s largest private hospital operator shows convincingly that people are now returning for treatments and check-ups, which had to be delayed.”

Members Health said Ramsay Health Care had already announced it was moving towards a 100 per cent return of elective surgery capacity in all states.

According to the association's study, eligibility checks for heart and vascular system procedures, gastrointestinal, psychiatric and bone, joint and muscle procedures all recovered to above 100 per cent by June 27.

It said that while eligibility checks dipped to 50 per cent of pre-COVID levels during the height of the crisis, the research also shows care that cannot be delayed, such as for pregnancy and cancers, did not stop.

“Health funds kept their members covered throughout the pandemic for a many urgent and lifesaving procedures, including important cancer treatments like chemotherapy and immunotherapy, mental health and psychiatric services,” said Mr Koce.

“Australia’s private hospitals are among the best in the world. Nurses, doctors and specialists have been working very hard to keep the flow of services during the pandemic to ensure Australians still get access to important treatments.

“The private system takes pressure off public hospitals, freeing up beds for those that need them most, especially during a pandemic like COVID-19. With patient demand back up to 100 per cent, private hospitals and their staff will be working around the clock to make sure private patients receive the fastest avaible access to high quality care when they need it.”

He added, “It’s important that Australians continue to see their specialist or GP, and get quick access to health care. Many conditions requiring elective surgery can be disabling, painful and even life-threatening.

“Delayed access to care can result in dependence on opioid pain killers, increased complexity of surgery down the track and trigger all sorts of other health issues that further impact quality of life.”