100% surgery target achievable, with non-government support

A new target to treat all people waiting for elective surgery within clinically recommended times can likely only be achieved if non-government hospitals take on expanded roles in delivering both public and private hospital services. Catholic Health Australia (CHA), representing a hospital network caring for one in ten Australians occupying a public or private hospital bed, today welcomed the long-awaited finalisation of funding and governance changes to the nation's health system.

CHA CEO Martin Laverty said “The targets to treat every person waiting for elective surgery within clinically recommended times, and to attend to 90% of people seeking emergency department care within four hours are brave and ambitious, but also laudable.

"We have a unique perspective on hospital care. Our not-for-profit network owns and operates public and private hospitals. We’re agnostic on where a person is treated; private or public hospital. Our aim is to return people to good health as soon as is possible.

"To help achieve the new elective surgery and emergency department targets, we say governments could better use the capacity of our and other private hospitals to undertake public elective surgery. Today’s spare capacity is modest, but over time it can be grown.

"We're offering to work more closely with governments and local hospital networks to plan how we can provide future capacity to aid government hospitals meet these challenging new targets. Developing terms and conditions can surely not be too hard.

"Virtually every one of our 54 private hospitals today does some public contract work for State and Commonwealth Governments. They’re contracted to provide inpatient and home nursing services, elective surgery waiting list reduction, individual clinical services such as Intensive Care Unit availability, chemotherapy, dialysis, and palliative care.

"The Productivity Commission in its 2009 Study of Public and Private Hospitals found for 60% of surgical procedures, non-government hospitals cost at least 10% less than public hospitals. Contracting with private hospitals makes financial sense.

"We see no barrier that should block non-government hospitals from doing more to free up government hospitals and enable people to get into treatment sooner. All that is needed is for governments to be willing to involve non-government hospitals in future service planning," Mr Laverty concluded.

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