3AW Mornings program interview with Dr Rachel David regarding elective surgery

Station: 3AW
Program: Mornings
Date: 23/04/2020
Time: 10:13 AM
Compere: Neil Mitchell
Interviewee: Dr Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia


NEIL MITCHELL: On the line. Dr Rachel David, Chief Executive of Private Healthcare Australia. Good morning.
RACHEL DAVID: Morning, Neil.
NEIL MITCHELL: Well it sounds like private patients are being dudded, are they?
RACHEL DAVID: Well no. As it turns out, the Victorian Minister actually issued a correction for that statement. What will be happening is that people will be, as it should happen, be prioritised based on clinical need. So those more urgent cases- people that are in distress from pain and can’t be managed at home or who are at risk of losing a critical bodily function, that’s possibly permanent like mobility or vision will be prioritised. And at least in the first few weeks, that is how that will be assessed. So it’s the patient treating doctor that will be making the decision about who receives the surgery first.
NEIL MITCHELL: Okay. Well that’s good. That’s as it should be but I would assume, and that’s because of the nature of the crisis we’ve got obviously, that people who- private patients will be waiting – well some of them – will be waiting longer than they otherwise would’ve been because public patients are going in.
RACHEL DAVID: Well that’s right. But we’re not expecting that to be a major issue at the moment. Because we’ve managed the crisis so well, there is a lot of capacity in private hospitals at the moment, so they’re really not seeing a lot of people coming in for spurious reasons. They have done the right thing and I think what the …
NEIL MITCHELL: [Interrupts] Too many people go into hospital for spurious reasons, do they?
RACHEL DAVID: Well you know, I mean what I’m trying to say is that, some people, they go into hospital for cosmetic surgery, for example, and all of that’s stopped. So there is full capacity in the private hospital system at the moment. The Minister in Victoria had secured some of that capacity to cope with the very real threat of a blow out in public hospital waiting lists but that doesn’t mean that public patients will get priority just because of their status. The priority will be based on how sick that person is and what the need is. And we’ve clarified that not just with the Government but also with the Victorian AMA, that is fully supportive of that position.
NEIL MITCHELL: Good. What sort of payment are the private hospitals getting from the Government?
RACHEL DAVID: Look, it’s under an agreement that I believe was signed with the Commonwealth Government, to cover their costs while they were empty so they could still continue to pay nurses even if they weren’t working at full capacity, for example. And I also believe that in Victoria, they have signed an agreement to permit them to treat some public patients in the event that the system becomes overwhelmed from the combination of coronavirus and the regular …
NEIL MITCHELL: [Interrupts] So does that mean the private hospitals are being paid to sort of be on standby?
RACHEL DAVID: Look, I don’t know the details of that. That’s a confidential arrangement …
NEIL MITCHELL: [Interrupts] But it shouldn’t be. It’s taxpayers’ money.
RACHEL DAVID: I think in time all of the information will be released. We’re not party to it at the moment. But what our view is- is that if people that have private health insurance have had their surgeries delayed as a result of the COVID crisis, they need to discuss when it could be rescheduled with their treating doctor and the medical practice and their treating doctor will advocate for them about when and where their surgery should take place. There’s no reason for a private patient to feel that their surgery has been delayed indefinitely.
NEIL MITCHELL: So the Minister got it wrong?
RACHEL DAVID: Look, I think she has issued a clarification and …
NEIL MITCHELL: [Interrupts] So she got it wrong. [Laughs]
RACHEL DAVID: Yeah. And that’s- I mean it’s a relief for all of us to know.
NEIL MITCHELL: Oh my- A lot of people were saying hang on last night. Alright. Thank you very much for your time. Dr Rachel David, Chief Executive, Private Healthcare Australia.

The Minister got it wrong. In fact, she’s made a habit of this- that Jenny Mikakos, through this whole situation. Things are moving quickly; she’ll be tired. Things are tough. Cut her some slack but she’s made quite a few [indistinct].

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