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No relief for public hospitals.



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Senator Lyn Allison Australian Democrats Health and Ageing Spokesperson July 2, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/480

No relief for public hospitals The Australian Democrats say the latest AIHW* report does not back Government claims that private hospital admissions are relieving pressure on public hospitals. It does however show a lack of integration in health services and failure of governments to take preventative health seriously. Democrats’ Health Spokesperson, Senator Lyn Allison, said, “It is nonsense for the Government to claim its private health insurance rebate is helping public hospital services. The evidence is that the 9% increase in private hospital admissions in 2001-02 was largely due to private health insurance members, who signed on for Lifetime Health Cover, ‘getting their money’s worth’ after the obligatory waiting period.” The March 2003 Private Health Insurance Administration Council’s figures show that since June 2002 there has been a small decline in private hospital admissions suggesting that whatever demand there was is now easing off. Senator Allison said, “The real pressure on public hospitals is the acute shortage of allied health professionals, lack of access to GPs and bulk billing and the many older patients waiting for nursing homes. These issues and a general lack of interest in preventative health measures by all governments has led to 600,000 people in hospital who did not need to be there. “For instance, if there were more podiatrists who were able to treat people living with diabetes then perhaps we wouldn’t see so many diabetics in the preventable admissions statistics. We also have a shortage of pharmacists and this is affecting the operation of public hospitals.” The Democrats say the states are responding to this pressure by reducing out-of-hospital services like chemotherapy and the private day clinics are happy to take on these patients, at a higher cost. The AIHW report shows stable numbers of salaried doctors and nurses in public hospitals, but visiting specialists are now in short supply because they can get higher incomes for the same work in private hospitals. *Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australian Hospital Statistics 2001-02 Contact: John Derry 0408 056 167 www.democrats.org.au