AMA (NSW) President: We need an unprecedented health budget to deal with an unprecedented year
- On November 18, 2020
AMA (NSW) welcomes the inclusion of pandemic funding in the 2020-21 Budget but is concerned recurrent funding will not meet expected patient demand.
“The Government's funding response to the pandemic is appropriate given the continued threat of COVID," said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen.
"However, we are concerned by the emphasis on health infrastructure over recurrent funding," she added.
"Hospitals and healthcare staff are struggling to meet patient demand.
“We’re building new hospitals and improving facilities, but that is only one part of the equation. Across NSW, particularly in Western and South Western Sydney, new hospitals have not been provided with sufficient recurrent funding to meet the increased demand. While opening new buildings is important, providing long-term funding to meet population demand is also necessary.
“The recent concerns raised about resourcing and services at Blacktown Hospital highlight the importance of funding all hospitals appropriately.
This year’s NSW Health budget includes $743m increase in recurrent funding or 3.1%.
“It’s a significant funding commitment but won’t be enough to stem the tide of patient pressure.
“We are facing a colossal backlog of patients needing essential care and we lack the flex in our hospital system to deal with it,” Dr McMullen said.
“Over the last decade, we’ve seen increases in demand by more than 40%, without a similar increase in funding, staffing and infrastructure.
“Pre-COVID, we faced quarter on quarter record-breaking numbers of emergency department presentations.
“ED presentations dipped in the second quarter of 2020, but that’s not because people stopped getting sick. There has been a concerning decline in people seeking treatment for heart attacks and strokes, as well as essential cancer screening.
“This creates poorer health outcomes for patients and will result in pent up demand," Dr McMullen said.
The NSW Health Budget includes approximately $458m to fast-track elective surgeries.
“We welcome elective surgery funding but are concerned it won’t move the needle enough to improve patient access.
“We can see that access is deteriorating and wait times are getting worse. The suspension of non-urgent elective surgery – while necessary – has exacerbated lengthy wait times for NSW patients, who face some of the longest wait times in the country.
“Patients are waiting more than a year for elective surgery in some cases and we know these figures only tell half the story. Elective surgery wait times don’t include the hidden wait list – the time it takes for a procedure to be scheduled by a doctor, or to even be seen in a hospital outpatient clinic.
“Hospitals and healthcare workers are barely coping as it is. How will the system respond when this backlog surfaces?
“Our system relies on public and private healthcare. As more people are ditching private health insurance, we are losing that equilibrium.
“The situation is becoming increasingly precarious. The State needs to be extremely careful about how and where it deals with elective surgery in public and private hospitals to ensure we don’t upset the balance.
“NSW Health has done an amazing job at restricting the spread of COVID and while we can’t let our guard down, we need to think strategically about patient care once the threat of COVID has abated.
“If we are going to continue to provide world-class quality care and deliver better patient outcomes, we need public hospital funding that is calculated to meet future patient demand and provides timely access.
“The State can’t do it alone. The current public hospital funding formula that has been extended until 2025 does not provide the funding needed to meet the care NSW patients require,” Dr McMullen said.
The Commonwealth contributes 45% of the efficient growth in public hospital activity, capped at 6.5% per annum.
“In 2020-21, the Commonwealth share of public hospital funding will be indexed by just 2.1%. The rate of Commonwealth funding indexation is concerningly low,” Dr McMullen said.
“The State and Commonwealth must work together to properly fund healthcare in NSW.”
Andrea Cornish - 0419 402 955 or 0450 129 502