AMA (NSW) welcomes the State Government’s health budget commitment but remains concerned that it will not be enough to stem the tide of a foreseeable disaster in health.
“The cracks are showing in our hospitals and frankly, we’re concerned this won’t be enough to fix a system that is already struggling with demand,” said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen.
“Across the country, we’ve seen what happens when hospitals are under-resourced and patients can’t access care on time – it’s completely unacceptable for people to die waiting for care in ambulances or crowded emergency departments.
“We are facing the same problems in NSW – more patients than ever before are coming through hospital emergency department doors, and doctors are dealing with more complex health needs that require serious immediate attention.
“The latest statistics from the Bureau of Health Information’s Quarterly Report paint a very clear picture of where we are heading. Our ability to meet performance measures such as seeing patients within the clinically recommended timeframes is declining. It’s happening gradually but make no mistake – we are losing this fight.”
In January to March 2021, for patients treated and discharged, or left without or before completing treatment, the median times spent in the ED were the longest of any January to March quarter in the five-year period.
“Unless we see significant investment in our public hospitals, the stage will be set for further tragedies. “Public hospitals across the state are struggling, but the situation in regional, rural and remote NSW is head-in-hands harrowing.
“Each hearing undertaken by the NSW inquiry into regional health unearths deeply uncomfortable truths about the inequity of healthcare access for non-metro residents.
“Our rural and regional communities deserve the highest standards of care and the doctors and nurses working in our rural and regional communities deserve to be well supported beyond new buildings. We need our best doctors looking for a career in rural and regional health.
“We also need a health system that funds all doctors working in our public hospital system. Reverting the wages policy is not only necessary, but also well-deserved by our frontline healthcare workers.
“In terms of palliative care, the Budget falls short. The funding commitment is very disappointing and not enough to treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve at the end of life. This needs to be a bigger priority going forward.
“Year on year, State Governments announce Budgets with significant spending on health. And year and year we are seeing hospitals struggling to cope. More creative funding solutions are needed.
“The AMA has suggested a new funding approach that hinges on more transparent and simplified Commonwealth-State funding arrangements. It calls on the Commonwealth to increase their contribution to 50% activity. NSW could use the 5% that would then be available to fund improvements.
“NSW Health has previously proposed novel funding ideas to improve not only hospital-based care but also in the community, which prevent the need for hospitalisations. However, the system is so over-stretched that investment into these novel ideas has not been ‘possible.’
“COVID has shown us anything is possible, so now is the time to take a brave approach to health funding, rather than just more of the same.
“The plan also calls the Commonwealth and State and Territory funding to be appropriately indexed with an emphasis on incentivising positive outcomes.
“We’ve tried doing more with less. How about doing more with more?” Dr McMullen said.
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