Little improvement in public hospitals despite funding: AMA

DESPITE an overall rise of nearly 10% in public health funding in the two years to 2011-12, the performance of Australia's public hospitals have not improved.

In its annual report card on public hospitals, the Australian Medical Association wrote there had been little improvement in public hospitals around the country, due in part to a political blame game by state and federal governments.

AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton said there was little progress towards nationally agreed improvements in the public hospital system.

"We are seeing some improvements in some areas, but it's few and far between," he said.

"What we need to make sure is that governments work together, they don't withdraw funding - they certainly don't withdraw funding retrospectively from health - to make sure we can get funding to the bed, to the doctor, to the nurse, to make sure we can deliver care in our public hospital sector."

He said despite agreements from state government to access to emergency and elective surgery, the public health system was not meeting them.

Dr Hambleton also called on both state and federal government to stop the "blame game", and get on with improving the public health system.

"We have seen a lot of state governments withdrawing funds, decreasing jobs, and it is really putting pressure on our ability to see patients appropriately at the front line. We have also seen the Federal Government do the same thing," he said.

Dr Hambleton said while the AMA had seen an increase in overall funding in the past few years, the past 12 months had seen a fall in overall funding.

"We have seen adjusting of the funding rules to mean that they're withdrawing funding that was there in the past," he said.

"We have also seen state governments cut budgets, and all of these are having serious impacts on our ability to actually get the job done and see our patients at the front line."

The AMA's public hospital report card showed the number of public hospital beds per capita had not changed since 2009-10, remaining static at 2.6 beds for every 1000 Australians.

It also found there was no change in the capacity at public hospitals to admit patients to wards from emergency departments more quickly, or to perform more elective surgeries.

While the national target for emergency department category three patients to be seen within 30 minutes was 80%, every state was under-performing, at an average of just 66%.

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