Today’s report on elective surgery waiting times again highlights the stupidity of the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s decision to scrap Labor’s landmark Health and Hospitals Reform Agreement with the states and territories.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report highlights how Labor’s reforms were helping to improve waiting times in public hospitals.
Under Labor’s agreement, an additional $3.5 billion was invested in public hospitals between 2011 and 2015, including a specific commitment of $650 million to meet the National Elective Surgery Target.
The AIHW report found that between 2010-11, when the agreement started, and 2014-15, the proportion of patients who waited greater than 365 days to be admitted for their procedure decreased from 2.8 per cent to 1.8 per cent.
In 2014-15, the median waiting time decreased to 35 days.
These figures demonstrate that consistent policy and proper resourcing can deliver significant improvements. But under the Turnbull Government, they are now likely to worsen as a result of the 2014 Budget cuts to public hospitals.
National Partnership Agreement on Improving Public Hospital Services — cessation
2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
– – 99.5 99.5 2.0
The Government will achieve savings of $201.0 million over three years from 2015 16 by ceasing reward funding to States and Territories under the National Partnership Agreement on Improving Public Hospital Services.
From 2017 the assault on public hospitals will worsen dramatically when the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s $57 billion in cuts kick in.
Labor’s agreement with every state and territory provided incentives for hospitals to meet targets for waiting list and emergency departments.
The Liberal Party committed to this in its 2013 Election Health Policy promising
“A Coalition Government will support the transition to the Commonwealth providing 50 per cent growth funding of the efficient price of hospital services as proposed.”
“The Coalition’s Policy to Support Australia’s Health System” Page 6, August 2013
Instead, the Liberals tore up the agreement, and abandoned any policy to improve efficiencies and the quality of patient care in public hospitals.
State premiers have warned the cuts are unsustainable and simply amount to a massive cost shift onto patients.
In government, Labor showed it was possible to keep health funding sustainable while investing in public hospitals, and seeing both bulk billing and private health insurance membership climb to record highs.
As today’s report shows, Labor’s reforms were working and this extremely short sighted decision will increase emergency department waiting times, increase elective surgery waiting times, and reduce the number of hospital beds across the country.