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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bleeding to Death

In a recent survey, a majority of Australians said they were in favour of the Federal government taking control of the health care system. The current situation is that although significant amounts of funding are supplied to the states to pay for hospitals, doctors, nurses etc, by the commonwealth government, it is the various state governments who determine how that money is spent. This arrangement is a primary cause of  the sickness afflicting the health care system in Australia.

The federal and state governments waste time and money arguing about these inefficient funding arrangements. They blame each other, instead of doing something to get it right. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd sought to overhaul the system during his relatively brief and tempestuous reign. In trying to negotiate a new deal with the states he went so far as to threaten a take over if the states did not sign up for the new arrangements. I was excited by the prospect, but unfortunately Mr Rudd did not follow through on his threat and we were left with a weak compromise. We do have a different system, but it still sucks.

According to AHCRA*, we have poor access to care for many Australians, consumer frustration with problems navigating an overly complex system, a disturbing health care gap between indigenous and non indigenous Australians, increasing out of pocket expenses for services, an insufficient focus on primary and preventative health care, an inefficient allocation of resources caused by current state/commonwealth funding structure, and a severe shortage of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.

These are serious issues which are getting worse. While the government keeps reaching for Band-aids, the health care system is bleeding to death. It needs radical surgery to save it's life, but the government is too busy arguing about who should pay for it, and who should be in charge of the operation.

*AHCRA (Australian Health Care Reform Alliance)