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Did you know…

that despite Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott’s claim that ‘every patient treated in a private hospital is one less patient on a public hospital waiting list’, between 2002-03 and 2003-04, the number of public hospital separations – that is, the number of episodes of hospital care for admitted patients – increased by 2.1%? It is true that private hospital admissions increased by 4% over this same period but there has not been a neat shift in workload or caseload from the public sector to the private sector.

Hospital data show that the overall demand for hospital treatment is increasing over time. One explanation for this is that as hospital availability increases, so too does demand for services in the form of more people on waiting lists.

There is also evidence to suggest that the public and private hospital sectors deal with different kinds of caseloads: public hospitals treat more emergency patients and patients with ‘severe disease levels’, while private hospitals attend to more surgical and elective cases. This means that the capacity for ‘shift in caseload share’ between the public and private sectors is limited.

Amanda Dominello
Manager
Australian Health Policy Institute
at The University of Sydney

Source

Public versus private? An overview of the debate on private health insurance and pressure on public hospitals Australian Parliamentary Library Research Note 20 June 2005, No. 54. Available in pdf format at www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/RN/2004-05/05rn54.pdf

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