Catholic Health Australia (CHA) today said the Federal Government could quickly and easily cut public hospital surgery waiting lists by nearly half by implementing a simple cost-effective national program to connect patients with hospitals that have available beds.
The program, Surgi-Link, is outlined in CHA's Federal Budget Submission 2010/11: Funding the first phase of health reform.
"Waiting times for public surgery have blown out in recent years, with around 90,000 public hospital elective surgery patients a year waiting longer than is clinically appropriate to have their surgery," CHA CEO Martin Laverty said.
"Now the Prime Minister has acknowledged that reform must take place immediately or State Governments will be overwhelmed by spiralling health costs.
"We have proposed an easy, cost-effective solution that can be implemented almost immediately, allowing thousands of patients to access surgery that will dramatically improve their quality of life.
"CHA proposes the Federal Government establish Surgi-Link to use the spare capacity of the private hospital sector to provide publicly-funded surgery to public patients who have been waiting longer than appropriate for their procedure."
The Surgi-Link proposal is modelled on the successful Queensland Surgery Connect program, and would operate using federally-funded brokers in each jurisdiction to match public patients with appropriate available private hospital providers.
Australia's public hospitals currently operate at about 86 per cent capacity, compared with 77 per cent in the private sector.
Internationally-accepted guidelines put the maximum safe running capacity of hospitals at 85 per cent.
"Better using the resources already available in Australia's private hospital sector would be a simple, cost-effective reform that would make a rapid and real difference to patients," Mr Laverty said.
Other measures outlined in CHA's Budget Submission include creating a unified national Aged Care Assessment process; expanding aged care to free up as many as 3,000 public hospital beds; and making palliative care available to every Australian who needs it.
The full Catholic Health Australia Federal Budget Submission 2010/11: Funding the first phase of health reform can be found at www.cha.org.au/submissions