The more things change, the more they stay the same. Queensland’s health system is again in crisis, with Queenslanders told by our ministers only to use the public hospital system in an emergency. And, predictably, the Premier is blaming the federal government. As the Courier-Mail reports this morning:
THE Premier has again attempted to deflect blame to the Federal Government over Queensland’s health woes.
Annastacia Palaszczuk claims the Federal Government owes her government $300 million in health funding.
The involvement of both federal and state governments in the health system is one of the underlying causes of the current crisis, of course. The other underlying cause is that, as Queensland Health’s website notes:
If you are eligible for Medicare you can access: public hospital and community-based services for low or no cost…
We have made a value judgment as a society that public health is important and should be heavily subsidised. That is fine, but we need to understand the economic consequences of that choice. We are setting aside the price mechanism which we rely on in so many markets to balance supply and demand. In other markets we ration by price, but in health we need to ration by quantity, meaning that, in Queensland, we now have to tell people to stay away from public hospitals unless it’s a life-or-death emergency.
Sure, we have had population growth and a spike in summer flu cases, but if we have a purely demand-driven system we are always at risk of having insufficient capacity. As a caller asked Steve Austin on his 612 ABC Brisbane Drive show yesterday afternoon, how would our hospitals cope if there were a major incident (e.g. plane or bus crash, natural disaster, etc)?
I should say the Premier is partly right to blame the federal government, as both state and federal governments are responsible for the health system, but she needs to recognise her government’s own role in the mess. State and federal governments both need to work together to find a solution and, ideally, one level of government would eventually leave health solely to the other level of government, so there is clear accountability.
You can read about Queensland’s first health crisis, which began with the revelations about “Dr Death” at Bundaberg Hospital in 2005, and resulted in a panicked, costly response from the Beattie government, in my 2018 book Beautiful One Day, Broke the Next.
I would expect peaks and troughs in the demand for hospital beds.
I don’t think anyone would want to pay for a hospital system so large that it could never be full.
So I think that having a system that occasionally has to delay elective surgery sounds reasonable.
Yes, that is a good point John, thanks. I do think that the latest situation is surprising though given how much we have invested in health over the last decade.
Public Hospital Crisis ?
Coincidence or Conspiracy ?
Observe how ‘the crisis’ occurred the week annual private health insurance polices are due for renewal (with increases) on the 1 April.
‘The crisis’ is just the nudge needed to encourage those waivering on renewing or lapsing private insurance to renew for another year.
Could ‘the crisis’ be orchestrated? There is certainly billions of dollars to be gain in gaming the health and health insurance industry. And there are certainly some very strategic, smart and sophisticated players in this complex web.
Many families are currently waivering with the decision to commit $7,000 from the family budget to pay for another year of private health insurance, for care that is usually available at no cost in the public system.
More and more people have been taking ‘the risk’ of better care in the public system, and dropping health insurance.
Coincidental, this month one of the larger private insurers surveyed members to ask ‘ How likely are you to recommend The Insurer to your friends or family? – 0 Not at all, to 10 Extremely likely. I suspect the majority of members surveyed would not give a high recommendation, and would advise in the later questions they considered health insurance to be poor value for money, considering you can receive the same treatment for free in the public system.
The public is very familiar with the ‘health scare’ strategy , yet it is always surprisingly effective in achieving demands for more taxpayer funds.
Just a thought……
Thanks Katrina. Very good points. The standard of care in the public system has certainly increased in recent years and the net benefits of private health insurance are less obvious than they once were.