Members Health says its members are bracing for an increase in complex NSW hospitalisations as COVID-19 restrictions come to an end.
The association that represents health funds that are not-for-profit or part of a member-owned group said research has revealed concerning declines in the number of eligibility checks for serious health conditions.
“The data we are seeing signals alarming future demand for the treatment of complex and very serious health conditions,” said CEO Matthew Koce.
“We run the risk of a second, shadow pandemic driven by people delaying important health assessments and interventions due to COVID-19.”
Members Health said eligibility checks for skin-related procedures, such as time-critical removal of skin cancers, is down 25 per cent in recent weeks. Checks relating to kidney and bladder procedures has dropped 24 per cent, gynaecology related checks 22 per cent, gastrointestinal endoscopy checks 11 per cent and heart and vascular-related checks 25 per cent.
"A bright spot where checks have defied the trend and rebounded strongly are chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy for cancer,” said Mr Koce.
Members Health said 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’s research collated data from 22 individual health insurers.
“Delaying important health assessments and treatment can have devastating consequences. In some cases, even a short delay can mean the difference between life and death. It is that serious,” said Mr Koce.
“We especially urge people who haven’t seen their GP in recent times to please make an appointment today to avoid a potentially far worse, or complex health issue.
“If something feels like it is not quite right, you notice an unusual blemish on your skin or you are due for a health check, then don’t put it off. Go and see your GP now.”
NSW hospitals have resumed all categories of elective surgery. “Health insurers stand ready to fund the large rebound in healthcare treatment that is anticipated and to support the amazing efforts of our hospitals and healthcare providers,” added Mr Koce.