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Australia's health system is at risk of collapse

by Eric Ruse (2020-12-29)

Overworked health professionals fear Australia's health system has been hijacked by greedy insurance company bean counters who are hell bent on profiting off the sick. 

Fearing a full-blown health crisis, one of the nation's top head and neck surgeons has broken ranks to warn of impending doom if health professionals' concerns continue to be ignored by those in charge. 

Dr Elizabeth Sigston told Daily Mail Australia that Australia's health system had endured a 'slow slide' into turmoil over the past 15 years and threatened to go the way of the American and UK health systems. 

Dr Elizabeth Sigston believes Australia's health system is driven by profit, not by health care

Medical professionals are being overworked and are struggling with low morale as Australia's health system fails to invest adequately in its people.

Medical staff are seen at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney

'We've been very lucky to have universal health care with Medicare ... but we're sitting on a tipping point where it's being forced almost into a managed care model, which is the US model, which we know doesn't work,' she said. 

'It is driven by profit, not by health care.

We also know a National Health Service model doesn't work if we look at what the UK has done in trying to privatise the NHS - it has been a complete disaster.'  


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Dr Sigston said evidence suggested Australia's aging population would only add pressure to Australia's already over-worked health professionals. 

'Our health care system is struggling. Our emergency departments are over burdened ...

people are being kept in corridors, our emergency physicians are struggling,' she said. 

'If you want to be seen in a public outpatient, certainly at Monash Health (in Victoria) the wait is two years or longer for most patients.' 

While Australians vent their anger across social media on long waiting lists, those working in the health system are themselves falling apart. 

'We're seeing our medical and health care workers facing burnout rates that have been unprecedented and there is an increased disengagement of the work force in public health with low morale and at the same time we're still seeing people who when they want to go private have their out-of-pocket expenses continue to rise.' 

Dr Sigston said while great medical facilities continue to be built, there is no actual money to run them. 

A hospital ward at Liverpool Hospital, Sydney.

A top surgeon fears Australia's health system is being taken over by health insurers which care more about profits than health outcomes

While medicare came as a welcome addition to Australia's health system, funding is not going to the right places, doctors fear

Dr Elizabeth said Australia needed to embrace a 'value health care' model where the patient's health outcome is measured over the course of an illness.

'Victoria is a classic example.

The government has now formally let people know that we actually don't have money to run our hospitals but we keep building new ones,' she said. 'We need to do something radical.' 

Dr Sigston said while funding is being provided, it it failing to be spent wisely. 

'We're having an increase load through the emergency department because we're not focusing on the areas where we could actually be reducing that,' she said. 

The surgeon said the key issue with Australia's health system was that it's measures have nothing to do with health. If you have any concerns with regards to where by and how to use We handle every aspect of the medical billing process to make sure you get paid for the services that you provide in an accurate and timely manner. When your practice is functioning at its best, you can contact us at the internet site.  

'We don't measure health outcomes as the goal of health care.

Which when you think about it, doesn't actually make sense,' she said. 

'They're mainly accounting KPIs ... now we're seeing emergency departments almost triaging patients and either sending them home inappropriately, admitting them under the wrong units and not having the time to work them out.'

Dr Sigston said Australia needed to embrace a 'value health care' model where the patient's health outcome is measured over the course of an illness.

'We need to go back to things being clinician led, where people who actually deliver the health care - the experts in health care - having more of a role in creating that,' she said. 

Heath insurers are also becoming an increasing problem as the big businesses gain further control of our health system.

'If you look at the amount of money private health insurers put into the health system, it's only about 8.8 per cent, but their voice sounds like they put in a lot more.

At he same time they're taking a huge amount out - it's about a billion dollars a year which goes back to shareholders in profits and dividends,' Dr Sigston said. 

'If that money was going into health care rather than to shareholders, which really don't care about health outcomes, we're increasing our funding by already probably two percent.'

Clinic to Cloud's chief executive Rafic Habib said better technology was 'one piece of the puzzle' but an important one

While concerned doctors try and tackle the problem at their end, technology experts are trying to save billions by streamlining a patient's process through the system.

Clinic to Cloud's chief executive Rafic Habib told Daily Mail Australia that better technology was 'one piece of the puzzle' but an important one. 

'I have some parts of the puzzle on my radar that I'm fixing,' he said. 

The company has developed a computer platform that allows doctors throughout a patient's process through the health system to access a patient's medical information. 

While Mr Habib said the introduction of the government's My Health Record was supposed to fix that problem, it's got a long way to go. 

'They created anxiety in the sector around the way the data is going to be used, there was misunderstanding as to whether the Australian Federal Police had access to (it) or the health funds had access to it, so it wasn't focused on solving one particular problem.

It was trying to solve too many problems,' Mr Habib said. 

'Secondly, the technology that was deployed is outdated. It's 20-year old technology.' 

The resulting confusion among doctors often leads to a doubling-up of intrusive procedures, paperwork and ultimately costs both patients and physicians valuable time and money. 

'It's a huge cost to the taxpayer,' Mr Habib said.  'If that information was to flow in a better way between GPs and non-GP specialties through to private and public hospitals then what does it mean to our lives as an individual and what does it mean to the taxpayer?

There's potentially billions of dollars on the table sitting there in re-ordering of tests.'  

Mr Habib said blood tests are re-ordered 80 per cent of the time because information is not shared. 

The company's platform already services about 2500 specialist doctors, who look after 2.5 million patients. 

'Doctors use it to manage their patient care.

A specialist doctor will use our platform to not only book you in for an appointment, but do a clinical consult, ask why you showed up - capture that information - order blood tests, give you medication, order an MRI or whatever is needed. And then the billing, invoicing and integration to Medicare,' Mr Habib said. 

The system also allows patients to see what's happening with their records and access test results and correspondence between doctors.  

'The whole sector is crying out for more transparency,' Mr Habib said.