ABC Radio Adelaide Mornings program interview with Dr Rachel David regarding the State Government’s proposal to reduce public hospital wait lists

Station: ABC Radio Adelaide
Program: Mornings
Date: 23/7/2019
Time: 9:18 AM
Compere: David Bevan
Interviewee: Dr Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia


DAVID BEVAN: Well let’s go to Dr Rachel David, Chief Executive Officer with Private Healthcare Australia.

Good morning, Rachel.

RACHEL DAVID: Good morning.
DAVID BEVAN: What do you think of these arrangements?
RACHEL DAVID: Well look I fully appreciate these challenges that anyone running as public hospital faces, particularly in the winter months. It can be quite chaotic, and it sounds like there are some real issues with waiting lists in SA.

But I would say to private patients this isn’t a reason not to take out private health insurance. Under this arrangement you still don’t know when you’re going to be able to have your surgery, you won’t have control over that. You won’t know where it’s going to take place or by whom. If you have private health insurance you will be in control of those factors and have one person responsible for your care.

So I wouldn’t necessarily see it as a substitute for having private health insurance at this point.

DAVID BEVAN: Okay. There’s only so many beds in the hospitals – we’ve got private and public. If the public system is buying up beds in the private sector that means there’ll be fewer beds for private health insurance people. Does that make sense?
RACHEL DAVID: Well look, perhaps I wouldn’t consider it that way but there are some problems with this. I can pretty much guarantee that no private patients are going to have to wait an extra length of time for their non-emergency surgery as a result of this, it’s not going to impact that.

But one of the things I do find perplexing at the moment is we have state governments all around the country, not just in South Australia, actively recruiting people coming to emergency departments to make them use their private health insurance if they’re going to hospital. At the same time they’re contracting out public patients to private hospitals. Now if that’s what we’re doing that can’t be an efficient way to run a health system. And from my perspective we need to acknowledge that we have one health system, and stop this shifting around of dollars and people, and concentrate on getting the dollars to where they’re most efficiently used. Otherwise if we continue down this path to its logical extension we could end up with public hospitals full of private patients, and private hospitals full of public patients. So that just doesn’t make sense to me.

DAVID BEVAN: But isn’t Dr Chris McGowan saying: well I’m trying to get some order in these arrangements because they have been ad hoc in the past.
RACHEL DAVID: I fully appreciate the challenges of doing this but I’m wondering whether it’s the most efficient way to achieve this goal and rather than when winter gets in we know we’ve got every elective surgical bed taken up with a person with the flu. Whether or not a better arrangement between Federal and State Governments to deliver care where it’s needed. Where the private health sector is at the table so that both the health funds as the major payers of the elective surgery are at the table so we can have a discussion about how this is best managed – both the people with private health insurance and very low-income earners who don’t have that opportunity.
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