Commission report suggests a single national health system

Productivity Commission findings that public and private hospitals have similar average costs suggest the health reform agenda should focus on utilising the full capacity of the National network of hospitals, instead of favoring either the public or private sector over the other.

Catholic Health Australia (CHA), the representative body of the public and private hospitals that on any one day are caring for 1 in 10 of all Australians in a hospital bed, said the Commission report reinforced known strengths of both public and private hospitals.

CHA CEO Martin Laverty said "The Commission found on average that general hospital costs were higher in public hospitals. It found on average doctor and diagnostic costs are higher in private hospitals.

"Similarly, it found private hospitals have higher staff productivity, shorter lengths of stays, and lower rates of infection than public hospitals. Public hospitals, however, are more accessible to disadvantaged socioeconomic groups.

"The lesson is that as a nation we can be more efficient in how health care funding is applied by utilising the known strengths of each sector that have been highlighted today by the report of the Commission," Mr Laverty said.

CHA said the release of the report came at a time when the Federal Government should be considering how to better utilise the non-government hospital sector in considering the future shape of the nation's health system.

"The Government set up the Health and Hospital Reform Commission, but ruled out of scope an emphasis on the role and funding of the non-government health sector.

"The Commission's report now establishes that the non-government sector has a most important role to play in enabling the delivery of efficient health care services."

CHA has endorsed the Commission's proposal for the establishment of a new data collection process to be able to better compare the cost of health care delivery. CHA has in fact proposed to Government the establishment of a new health care National Hospital Costing Data Agency.

CHA also said it was in the process of reviewing the community benefit of tax concessions enjoyed by non-government hospitals, and would respond to the Commission's recommendations that the value of Fringe Benefit Tax concessions be quantified.

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