Dutton's health productivity call long overdue

Australia's health funding is unsustainable, but quality improvements and cost efficiencies without essential service cuts can be achieved by expanding not-for-profit health care delivery, Catholic Health Australia said today.

Following Health Minister Peter Dutton's Wednesday address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in Brisbane, CHA chief executive officer Martin Laverty said not-for-profit health services have a long history of delivering hospital care and they are seeking a new partnership with governments.

"A Productivity Commission comparison of government and non-government-owned hospitals found non-government hospitals deliver average admissions at less per patient cost than government-owned hospitals, with higher quality outcomes," Mr Laverty said.

"Substantial public funding of the nation's hospital system could be saved by a new mechanism of enabling not-for-profit hospitals to deliver more public services and also by encouraging greater management efficiency in government-owned hospitals."

Mr Laverty responded to the Health Minister's suggestion of a national conversation on health system sustainability by arguing a new health reform program was needed that focused on three key areas, comprising:

• Patient outcome improvement by only delivering patient services where best practice evidence informs clinical decisions and reducing health system demand through a recommitment to preventing avoidable diseases through action on social determinants of health.

• A health system-wide productivity agenda that directs public expenditure to only efficient providers of health care that employ the most effective workforce models and technological advances.

• A waste reduction strategy by enabling new accountability in the commissioning of patient services to end duplication and over- or under-servicing. Patient enrolment in chronic disease management plans or broader consumer direction of public health entitlements should inform any Medicare review.

"I suspect Minister Dutton will cop some flak from parts of the health lobby for his suggestion that some might need to pay more for health care. Our view is those who have capacity to pay should, but those who cannot need a robust safety net," Mr Laverty said.

"With the Catholic network of hospitals caring for one in every 10 Australians admitted to a hospital bed, we are ready and willing to play a role in expanded health care services. To do so, we need to remove the many barriers that stand in the road," Mr Laverty concluded.

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