Australia’s health care system may be facing a hospital crisis similar to issues currently affecting the UK, which could result in an increase of medical negligence claims.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) warned that cuts to general practice funding and community care are causing higher admission numbers to hospitals across the country.
According to the organisation, the problems are reminiscent of Britain’s beleaguered National Health Service, which has been forced to urge people to stay away from hospitals if they have non-life-threatening illnesses. UK patients also commonly have to wait up to 12 hours for emergency care, with waiting time blowouts leading to cancelled operations and additional staff requirements.
Dr Stephen Parnis, AMA vice president, said a lack of government funding for general practices is a primary cause of the bottlenecks at British hospitals.
He claimed the UK’s GPs are examining 120,000 more patients a day than in 2010, yet the government has reduced spending in this area to an all-time low.
“If people can’t get in to see their GP, they will often end up at hospital, increasing to the pressure on already-strained emergency departments and greatly adding to the government’s health bill,” he explained.
Australia’s health care woes
Dr Parnis argued that Australia’s health care system could follow in Britain’s footsteps if federal government changes to Medicare are approved.
The Abbott government intends to cut rebates on GP Level B consultations lasting less than 10 minutes to $16.95 – over $20 less than the previous rate of $37.05. This is set to come into effect on Monday January 19.
“As the UK experience shows, when governments cut investment in primary health care, it means more people end up going to hospital, they are sicker, and they are much more expensive to treat,” Dr Parnis stated.
If hospitals become overburdened and understaffed, the likelihood of medical negligence occurring could rise. In NSW, there have already been reports in recent weeks of patients waiting up to 24 hours for care.
The Sydney Morning Herald revealed patient times soared in January after hospitals instigated bed closures in order to allow staff to take time off over the holiday season. However, seasonal illnesses resulted in a higher-than-expected number of admissions, creating strain on health care facilities and paramedics across the state.