Health Care Down Under

Kangaroo SignAccording to the Australian Medical Association, every public hospital in New South Wales is dangerously overcrowded, causing 1,500 unnecessary deaths each year. Patients stack up in corridors and emergency rooms waiting for beds. Hospitals routinely cancel elective surgeries. On September 8, 2008, 23 patients with government coverage were admitted to the Townsville hospital through the emergency department. As there were no beds for them, elective surgeries were canceled. [link] Psychiatric patients in other hospitals are routinely restrained and sedated due to an acute shortage of psychiatric beds. [link]

Some say that the entire Australian health care system is on life support. The government says that overcrowding can be solved by keeping people out of the hospital. [link]

Keeping people out of the hospital is difficult as the government run system has for years suffered from a primary and specialty care physician shortage. [link] Efforts to fix the problem have brought forth the usual calls for greater efficiency, more federal money, and the replacement of physicians by health practitioners with less training. They have not worked.

The push for more foreign trained physicians to alleviate the shortage puts regulators in charge of physician oversight under growing pressure to license foreigners. In one notorious case, the Medical Board of Queensland appointed Dr. Jayant Patel to practice at the Bundaberg Base Hospital under the “area of need” program. It did not check his references. In 2000, Oregon restricted Patel’s practice. In 2001, New York State Officials forced him to surrender his license. By 2005, Dr. Patel may have killed as many as 87 patients.

The official report on the inquiry into Queensland Public Hospitals shows that inadequate funding for trained surgeons, coupled with budgetary incentives to meet government targets for elective surgery, lead to inadequate oversight, a tolerance for sloppy work, and a culture of concealment.

The Western Australia Health Minister wants to privatize part of the health care system by copying the British model, in which physicians who work for the nationalized system can also provide their services privately. [link]

As is generally the case with government controlled health care systems, Australia’s public health care systems suffers from poor quality, poor access, and high costs.

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Bret says:

    Sounds just like Parkland hospital in Dallas.

  2. Larry says:

    Actually, Bret, it sounds a whole lot like the US Medicaid system.

  3. […] the whole post here. Share These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web […]