Private hospitals say backlog will take 'some time' to clear


The Australian Private Hospitals Association says it will be some time before the backlog of elective surgery delayed as a result of the pandemic can be cleared.

CEO Michael Roff said the association has estimated there were 340,000 episodes of care 'missing' from private hospitals in 2020 as a result of the temporary halt on elective surgery. He said they estimate this has fallen to 290,000 but that it will still take a considerable amount of time to work through these cases.

“This is a serious situation for those affected patients and the healthcare system. These are surgeries and other treatments that have been deferred but they will need to be done at some stage and include procedures like total knee and hip replacements or cataract surgery that impact a patient’s ability to move around or to see,” he said.

The latest release by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) shows there were 978,797 episodes of care in private hospitals during the three months to the end of June.

The APRA data shows funds held over by private health insurers to fund elective surgery that could not take place during the pandemic – deferred claims liability – stands at $1.4 billion.

Mr Roff said the insurers need to return these funds to members.

“This inaction on the part of insurers needs to be addressed. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has suggested these ‘deferred claims’ which have not been used to address the elective surgery backlog should be taken into consideration when the Health Minister considers premium increases.

“The APRA report indicates health insurers doubled their profit to $1.5 billion in the 12 months to the end of June. Therefore, the Minister should look very closely at any insurer trying to increase their premiums while still holding onto large amounts of their member’s money in the form of deferred claims,” added Mr Roff.