“The Federal Government’s decision to ask the Productivity Commission to study Australia’s medical workforce will be a lost opportunity unless it centres on our greatest existing and future health problem. Namely, the declining productivity of our public hospitals”, Dr John Harrison, Federal Chairman of the Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons said in Sydney today
Conspiracy theories about greedy faceless specialists meeting in back rooms full of cigar smoke scheming up plans to keep a closed shop are convenient images for governments who dare not tell the public the truth about hospital Medicare.
The reality is that despite State and Federal Governments spending $18 billion per annum on public hospital care ($1000 for every man, woman and child in Australia), orthopaedic surgeons and their patients find themselves shut out of public hospital operating theatres on a regular basis.
Orthopaedic surgeons around Australia have offered to double the amount of public hospital operating time they provide but sadly, cutbacks in the system mean that they are doing even less each year. Is it any wonder that many of them want to leave the system and go private?
Increasing the number of under-employed surgeons by creating more and more trainee surgeons won’t help. Our training programme is already running at record levels.
In 2004 only 18% of orthopaedic surgeons working in rural areas describe the outlook in public hospital surgery as optimistic. Almost 40% reported that the conditions for their public patients had deteriorated in the previous 12 months and only 5% said that they had improved. 60% reported that their public hospital waiting list was growing and only 2% that their public hospital waiting list was reducing.
THE REASON IS NOT A SHORTAGE OF ORTHOPAEDIC SURGEONS. IT IS THE CONSTANT CUTBACKS TO PUBLIC HOSPITAL ORTHOPAEDIC ELECTIVE SURGERY BY RATIONING OPERATING THEATRE TIME, PROSTHETICS AND SUPPORT STAFF.
It’s easy to say that, we need more troops on the ground. The reality is that existing troops can’t get their hands on a weapon to fight the war against disease and injury.
Australia is well doctored by international comparisons. The productivity of orthopaedic surgeons has never been higher. The truth that will not speak its name is that our command and control, Soviet style, de-medicalised ,state run, public hospital system is imploding under the weight of bureaucratic overburden.
“The application of Gammon’s Law, to our Public Hospital System (in a bureaucratic system productivity will decline as government funding increases) is what the Productivity Commission should be examining and reporting about” Dr Harrison said.