Non-government hospitals save government dollars

Governments could save millions of dollars annually by making better use of Australia's efficient non-government hospitals, Catholic Health Australia (CHA) revealed today.

The Productivity Commission's recent draft report, Public and Private Hospitals, found that nationally, private hospitals cost an average of $105 per admission less than public hospitals. In its formal response to the report, CHA said this represents a huge potential saving to governments.

"Better utilising private hospitals to treat public patients represents dramatically shorter waiting lists and millions of dollars in potential savings for taxpayers," CHA CEO Martin Laverty said.

"The Productivity Commission found that private hospitals tend to have better infection control outcomes, and Catholic hospitals around Australia have already demonstrated that public hospitals run by private operators work very well to deliver quality health care at a reasonable cost."

The not-for-profit public and private Catholic hospitals represented by CHA provide one-quarter of private sector hospital beds and one in 10 of all hospital beds across Australia.

Averaged nationally, public hospitals run at 86.5 per cent capacity -- greater than the internationally recognised safe benchmark of 85 per cent -- while private hospitals are running at around 77 per cent capacity.

"Shifting 170,000 episodes of care a year to the private sector would bring the occupancy rates in both sectors into line at a safe operating level, and save millions of collars," Mr Laverty said.

"Ensuring all Australians have access to quality hospital services is not an option, it's a necessity. It makes sense to opt for reliable hospitals that cost less."

The potential for delivering public health care through Australia's strong non-government hospital sector is yet to be fully realised, Mr Laverty said.

"This system is already working very well in Queensland, where the Surgery Connect program has achieved a 19.1 per cent reduction in numbers of public patients awaiting elective surgery, and a huge 46.1 per cent drop in public waiting lists for category three patients who require non-urgent surgery," he said.

"The capacity and opportunity of the non-government sector is already being accessed by governments when it comes to education, welfare, aged care, and employment. There is every reason to make better use of Australia's excellent non-government hospitals."

CHA's submission to the Productivity Commission is available on www.cha.org.au

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