- On November 17, 2020
- November / December 2020
Clearing the junk drawer
We have a public and private system that is delicately balanced. And while everything may seem ok on the surface, if we don’t take care of funding issues now things will get very messy, very quickly.
Everyone has that drawer in their house. You know, the drawer that serves as refuge for the wayward rubber bands, Allen keys from your last Ikea project, and batteries that may or may not be dead.
The best thing about that drawer is closing it. Once it’s closed, you don’t have to deal with that stuff anymore. It can sit there in junk drawer purgatory pretty much until you move house again. And, as a bonus, once the drawer is shut, the kitchen looks clean and organised.
Healthcare’s junk drawer
On the surface, we have a world-class system. For more than two decades, Australia has enjoyed strong public and private health systems. We have a guarantee of excellent quality care when we need it most in our public hospitals, and our private system offers choice and often speed. Without the private system, our public one would crumble under the pressure. The balance between public and private is essential to the world-class system we know.
This delicate balance, however, is on a knife’s edge. It is under threat by poor uptake of health insurance by young people. Even before COVID-19 impacted the livelihoods of so many Australians, private health membership numbers started to nosedive.
This is particularly frightening given the already over-stretched public health system.
Our public hospitals – particularly in NSW – are at peak capacity.
COVID-19 galvanised the health system to work collaboratively. For a while there was a common goal. From the top down and the bottom up, everyone’s sole focus was just on getting through the worldwide pandemic in one piece.
We put the system’s problems in a drawer, and we closed it.
But now that we’re eight months and two waves into this, it’s time to open up some of the longstanding issues again and come up with a plan to deal with them.
Since the last edition of The NSW Doctor magazine, the AMA has released two significant reports: the Prescription for Private Health and the AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2020.
These reports warn Governments of the dual threats facing the system – a private health insurance system that is under real stress and a public hospital system at breaking point.
Inadequate funding levels for public hospitals needs to be addressed. We also need to make private health insurance attractive, affordable and valuable to more Australians, especially young Australians.
The AMA has developed a blueprint for reform and is advocating for urgent changes to ensure the delivery of high-quality healthcare continues to be met.
If we don’t act now, the junk drawer will overflow and the mess will be there for all to see. The Spring cleaning is overdue.