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15 Aug 2016

Going private

Private hospital beds are increasing at almost three times the pace of growth in the public system as Government funding cuts bite and the number of privately-insured patients swells.

In the first five years of the decade, the public hospital system grew at an average annual rate of 1.1 per cent to reach 60,300 beds. But over the same period the private hospital system expanded at a much faster 2.9 per cent a year, and its capacity reached almost 32,000 beds by mid-2015.

While two-thirds of the beds added in the public system were for overnight stays, virtually all of the extra beds in the private system were for overnight care.

Underlining the pressure on public hospitals from patients with complex and chronic conditions, figures compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed 57 per cent of funded services were for admitted patients, while 17 per cent were for outpatients and 10 per cent involved emergency department care.

The most common reason for hospitalisation was for dialysis (14 per cent of the total), followed by cancer (11 per cent). About a quarter of hospitalisations involved surgery, and 60 per cent of operations were conducted in private hospitals. The most common surgical procedure was cataract removal.

Culture of humiliation

Almost two-thirds of medical students were victimised or witnessed workplace bullying last year, according to an Australian Medical Students’ Association report.

The report, presented to the National Centre Against Bullying Conference, showed that of 519 students surveyed, 60 per cent reported being bullied or harassed themselves, or witnessing such treatment of another.

And, in a sign of how much work needs to be done to encourage victims and bystanders to report such behaviour, just 32 per cent said they had taken some action.

The AMSA report included accounts of students being sexually harassed in the presence of other health workers, being sent sexually explicit text messages after hours and being abused in front of patients.

AMSA President Elise Buisson told Fairfax Media such behaviour had a baleful effect on the workplace and learning environment, and cultural change was needed in the profession.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said the peak medical organisation had no tolerance for bullying and harassment.

“This behaviour is unacceptable in so many ways,” Dr Gannon said. “It is morally wrong and sometimes illegal.”

Road safety off target

A national goal to cut road deaths and injuries by a third by the end of the decade is “slipping out of reach” following a spike in fatalities in the past 12 months.

Figures compiled by the Australian Automobile Association show that 1269 people died on the nation’s roads in the 12 months to 30 June, 99 more than in the previous 12 months, including 612 drivers, 228 motorcyclists and 168 pedestrians.

AAA Chief Executive Michael Bradley said that since all the nation’s governments had signed up to the National Road Safety Strategy in 2011, there had been a just a 6.1 per cent drop in the annual road toll, which was far short of what was required to reach the target of a 30 per cent decline by 2020.

“Clearly we are heading in the wrong direction, and there is the need for all governments to step up their efforts by developing policies and programs that deliver a safer transport network, safer drivers and safer vehicles,” Mr Bradley said.

The AAA said there had been an increase in road deaths in every State and Territory except Western Australia and South Australia, but the declines achieved in those two states were less than was required to reach to 2020 target.

Mediscare texts cleared

The Australian Federal Police will not take action over a polling-day text sent out to voters claiming Medicare was under threat form the Coalition.

The text, sent under the name “Medicare”, claimed that the Turnbull Government planned to privatise Medicare and urged recipients not to vote for the Coalition.

The Liberal Party lodged a formal complaint about the messages following the tight election result, and Attorney-General George Brandis said they appeared to breach the law.

But the AFP said the matter had been “evaluated…and no Commonwealth offences were identified”.

Adrian Rollins


Published: 15 Aug 2016