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Sword of Damocles hang over Australia's health care system

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Media Release Dr Bob Woods Shadow Minister for Health


Today's announcement by the State Liberal Health Ministers regarding the Medicare Agreement demonstrates the extent of the crisis facing Australia's health care system Federal Shadow Minister for Health Dr Bob Woods said today.

" The upcoming Australian Health Ministers Conference to discuss the next five year Medicare Agreement and the Commonwealth contribution to the States is going to be as important as any in the history of Australia's health services " said Dr Woods.

The real reason for the crisis is clear.

Since the commencement of Medicare in 1984 the Commonwealth has reduced its proportion of Commonwealth funding to the States and at the same time has discouraged levels of private health insurance. As the levels of the privately insured have dropped from almost 70% of the population to ju st over 40% the burden on the public hospital system has increased.

This has produced the crazy situation where while between 70,000 - 100,000 are on public hospital waiting lists around Australia there are between 7 - 8,000 private hospital beds empty every day.

NSW figures which indicate that it has suffered a shortfall of $1.3 billion in Commonwealth funding since 1984 are astounding.

By its continued ideological reluctance to support private health insurance and acknowledge the important role it should play in the provision of health services The Commonwealth has worsened the situation to crisis point,

The statement by the Liberal Health Ministers today demonstrates this.

NSW estimates that if the levels of the privately insured drop to 30% as projected by 1995, they will need an extra $377 million per year just to cope with the extra patients.

How can the Commonwealth continue to ignore their pleas for assistance?

Comments by West Australian Labor Health Minister Keith Wilson in April this year to indicate the current health funding system is the most "ramshackle" in Australia's history is a damming indictment from the Government own's colleagues and should not be forgotten.

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For further information contact Dr Wood» or Lei** O’Connor on 06 277 4661. After hour* contact Dr Woods 06 295 1800.

The Coalition solution to redress the problem is straightforward. By the encouragement of more people into private health insurance by offering of financial subsidies more money will flow into both the public and the private sectors.

Low income earners who have no choice but to rely on public hospital beds will no longer have to compete with people who can afford private health insurance and should be using beds in the private system.

Recent Budget initiatives for the public hospital system announced by the Commonwealth are little more than an attempt to be seen to be doing something and will achieve very little.

Estimates put the real cost of treating all patients on the public hospital waiting lists at over $280 million. The Commonwealth has allocated a ludicrous $35 million each year for two years!

The architect of Medicare, Dr John Deeble estimates the real cost of replacement of hospital capital stock each year would be $712 million. The Commonwealth has offered a paltry $3 million this year!

Federal Minister Brian Howe cannot continue to bury his head in the sand and hope the problem will go away. "


8 October 1992


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For further information contact Dr Wood* or Lei#a O’Connor on 06 277 4661. After hour» contact Dr Wooda 06 295 1800.