Sick healthcare system skewed by vested interests

Opinion Courier Mail


RAMPING and hospital bed shortages have certainly captured the headlines. There is a significant shortage across southeast Queensland and, in particular, Caboolture/North Lakes areas, south of the river and the Gold Coast. These are all high-population growth areas. I wonder if there is a connection?

Last week, it all came to a head with almost every emergency department collapsing into chaos. The sick and injured sitting and sleeping on chairs and couches, often for over 24 hours at a time, is not just a bad look, it is also life-threatening.

The Government had to negotiate emergency accommodation and treatment in the private sector to absorb this overload.

The question is, how did it come to this?

The algebra is quite simple. Over 50 years ago, I taught my form four (Grade 10) maths students the equation you need to solve this type of problem.

Question: If the population is now 2.3 million, how many extra beds do you need to supply by 2026 if the population will then be 2.9 million, and you need to maintain a ratio of 2.6 beds per thousand population?

Answer: 1560 extra beds.

If 15-year-olds can work that out, why can’t governments?

The answer is politicians – and it is not about Labor being better at this than the LNP or vice versa. None of them have the ability to prioritise, collect and budget the money needed to build the facilities.

Even worse, they all want new facilities in their own electorates.QLD Childrens Hospital

Was replacing the children’s hospital on the northside with the new incorporated Queensland Children’s Hospital in the southside electorate of then premier, Anna Bligh, really the best allocation of scarce resources?

I’m not singling her out. There isn’t a politician in Parliament who, given the same opportunity, wouldn’t shamelessly have done the same.

The problem with the present health system is that Government funds the service providers. This means politicians and bureaucrats decide where the money is spent.  See above. This is bad.

Government should instead fund the recipient of the services. This means the patient and their doctor will decide where to go and the government funding will, in effect, follow them. So, the health services marketplace will decide where the capital will be allocated. This is much better and it is not new.

This is how Medicare works. You choose the doctor you want and the Government gives you money to pay the doctor. You are in control. It is not a perfect system, but it is infinitely better than the Government paying the doctors and then telling you who you can see.

The political promise to the people of Queensland should be that the Government will pay for your healthcare. It should never be that the Government will run a business very badly, which provides mediocre health care. But this is what we now have, and it is not good enough.

If we truly want the best for ourselves and our families, we need to put ideology aside and apply common sense. Do we really care who owns the hospital if we get to choose which one we go to, and the Government is going to pay us to go there? Sensible people will say, of course not.

Although the conceptual solution to the problem is simple, this will be a complex project with lots to be sorted including fending off huge opposition from the vested interests. But if we are serious as a society about looking after the vulnerable, then those vested interests have to be taken on and defeated. Anybody interested in joining the fight?

Graeme Haycroft is a founder of the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland


Published in the Courier Mail Opinion on 2 April 2019


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