New report highlights rising wait times for public patients

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The Australian Private Hospitals Association says new data has revealed a blowout in elective surgery waiting lists as public hospitals prioritise revenue over caring for public patients.

According to a new Australian Institute of Health report, public patients are waiting twice as long overall for elective surgery – a median of 44 days for public patients and 22 for the privately insured.

APHA CEO Mr Michael Roff said public patients are languishing on waiting lists while public hospitals prioritise treating privately insured patients.

“This goes against the principles of Medicare – that treatment in public hospitals is based on clinical need, not ability to pay. But, it’s also fundamentally unfair," said Mr Roff.

"Public and privately insured patients should be treated exactly the same in the public system, these numbers tell us they are not.

“Public patients requiring head and neck surgery have a median wait time 60 days longer than privately insured patients for their surgery in public hospitals. While those requiring orthopaedic surgery have a median wait time of 52 days longer than patients public hospitals can squeeze revenue from.

“The consequence of waiting for these surgeries might be limiting someone’s ability to work, to care for their families, to get out of bed in the morning.

“If more of those privately insured patients were treated in the private hospital sector the dual benefit to public patients would be reduced waiting times and a less stressed public health system. Furthermore, privately insured people should be given the opportunity to be treated in private hospitals, rather than being trapped in the public system.

“However, public hospitals only see the dollar signs when a privately insured patient enters their hospital and have been actively ‘harvesting’ these patients through their emergency departments for years. “The immoral practices of public hospitals chasing private patient revenue while ignoring the needs of public patients must be outlawed in the next hospital funding agreement, which will be a top priority for the incoming Federal Health Minister,” added Mr Roff.