Health reform doubts

THE Federal Government has crippled its hospitals reform plan by compromising too much with the states, local doctor and Nationals member Sue Page has warned.

Dr Page raised concerns about the funding models planned in the reform package, saying they could disadvantage regional hospitals, regardless of their size.

Dr Page is a former Nationals candidate for Richmond and is the party’s Ballina electorate council chairwoman. She is also an expert on health policy and has formerly served as, among other things, the head of the Rural Doctors Association.

Under the reform model, large hospitals, such as Lismore Base, would operate under case-mix funding – which gives money for the number and type of procedures performed – while smaller hospitals, such as Casino and Coraki, would have a ‘block’ funding system set up for hospitals where the case mix approach was not appropriate.

Dr Page said the case-mix system might work at metropolitan hospitals with higher staffing levels, but at places such as Lismore Base it would mean doctors spending an hour or more of each daydoing paperwork, instead of seeing patients. She gave the example of elderly patients admitted for any reason, saying such patients sometimes also suffered delirium, which doctors had to treat.

Under the case-mix model, that extra condition would also mean extra funding for the hospital, but it would also mean doctors having to spend a few minutes for each patient doing a specific diagnosis of the delirium to guidelines laid out by the funding process.

If they had to do that repeatedly in a day, those minutes would quickly stack up, making it difficult to do the paperwork without leaving patients in the lurch. She was also concerned state governments would be deciding what price to set on various procedures.

For small hospitals, Dr Page understood the Government’s plan was to give the block funding money to the states, which would then decide where and how much to allocate to the various regions.

Page MP Janelle Saffin said that doctors already had to do administrative work and the case-mix work would not contribute greatly to that.

She said the Government’s reforms had been backed loc-ally by high-profile medicos Dr Brian Pezzutti and Dr Chris Ingall.

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