Rudd admits hospital complexity

THE prime minister admits his grand plan to fix the nation’s hospitals or take them over is now nine months behind schedule, but he insists he still has time to “get it right”.

Kevin Rudd promised before the 2007 election to mend the ailing health system by mid-2009 or move to take over the funding of Australia’s public hospitals.

Yesterday he confessed it was easier to talk the talk than walk the walk.

“We’re now about nine months late from implementing that commitment,” Mr Rudd told ABC TV.

“I accept that.

”We didn’t anticipate how hard it was going to be to deliver things. We didn’t properly estimate the complexity.“

The PM has said he’ll put his health reform plan to the states and territories at March’s COAG meeting.

No date has been set yet, but it’s widely tipped to take place after the South Australian and Tasmanian polls on March 20.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, however, thinks the prime minister may reveal his vision sooner than that.

“What I suspect he’s going to do is come up with a bureaucratic fudge,“ Mr Abbott told Network Ten yesterday.

“I suspect some time in the next couple of weeks he will announce a national hospitals commission. It will be another level of bureaucracy and it won’t make any difference on the ground.”

The coalition plans to install local management boards in every major public hospital in NSW and Queensland if it wins this year’s federal election.

Mr Rudd agreed hospitals were best run by locals.

He insisted yesterday his threat to take over hospitals only ever referred to funding. The states and territories would still run them.

“It has always been my view that hospitals are best run locally, “ the PM said.

Many in the community thought Mr Rudd meant complete control when he talked of a takeover.

Indeed, even before the 2007 election then PM John Howard accused Mr Rudd of deliberately “misleading“ the public.

Currently, funding responsibility is shared, with the commonwealth providing block grants to the states every five years.

But the Rudd government’s hospitals reform commission has recommended a shift to an activity-based funding model.

For instance, a hip operation would attract a set dollar amount nation-wide. It’s argued this would encourage greater efficiency because hospitals would have to pay the difference if the procedure cost them more.

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