Savings delivered and call to end unnecessary surgery restrictions

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The Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) says the quarterly statistics from the prudential regulator show the sector has delivered savings while the Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) says hospitals are still in the process of recovering from pandemic restrictions.

The MTAA, which is now in a renewed reform negotiation with the federal government, said the data released by the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) showed the cost of medical devices continued to decline as a direct result of its 2017 agreement with the federal government.

It said these savings had reached $1.2 billion. CEO Ian Burgess said this milestone was worth acknowledging given the medical technology sector had also played a "vital role" in supporting Australia's pandemic response.

“The MedTech industry is proud to be going above and beyond in answering the call to support Australia’s healthcare needs, whether delivering savings on medical devices or coordinating its taskforce to help Australia through this pandemic, we’ve been there,” said Mr Burgess.

The APRA data showed the number of devices used in the March quarter fell 7 per cent with benefits paid by private insurers also down.

Mr Burgess also encouraged private health insurers to return their deferred claims liability to members. The deferred liability was built up during the pandemic in response to the significant shutdown of elective surgery. 

APHA CEO Michael Roff said the data showed private hospitals treated fewer patients in the March 2021 quarter than they did in the corresponding period last year - 895,341 compared to 898,676.

“It is encouraging to see private hospital activity continue to increase, but we are not yet back to where we were before the pandemic hit our healthcare system. To provide greater certainty in the system we need to ensure there are no more unnecessary surgery restrictions, like those recently applied in Western Australia.

“The conditions that led to national surgery restrictions in early 2020, the need to preserve PPE and maintain ICU capacity, no longer exist. APHA has written to the Chief Medical Officer requesting that AHPPC establish nationally consistent principles and guidance regarding the imposition of restrictions on elective surgery in response to small-scale COVID-19 outbreaks,” said Mr Roff.

He said it is concerning there has been no reduction in the deferred claims liability that remains at $1.8 billion.

“We say it is past time for all health funds to tell their members how they intend to use this money, and if they can’t do that the cash should be returned to members,” added Mr Roff.