Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promotes his health care reform at a hospital in Queanbeyan.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promotes his health care reform at a hospital in Queanbeyan.

Health reforms under microscope

FIVE aspects of the Federal Government’s national health reform plan came under scrutiny at a meeting of NSW health officials in Sydney.

The CEO of the North Coast Area Health Service, Chris Crawford said in what had been ‘a good session’ they had looked at financing; governance; the reform process; rural and regional concerns; procedures and processes.

“Price is very important from the rural perspective,” Mr Crawford said.

“If that is not right it will put the smaller hospitals under a lot of pressure so we are suggesting that someone with a specific rural and regional background should be on the price-setting entity.

“They (small hospitals) don’t have the economies of scale – and even the larger regional hospitals are small compared to some of the urban hospitals.”

In terms of governance, he said they believed the number of networks suggested 150 nationally and 50 in NSW were too many and would see separation of some of the smaller hospitals from base hospitals, which would affect the seamless flow of services.

He used the example of smaller hospitals like Nimbin, Kyogle and Urbenville being cut off from Lismore Base Hospital and said in such a scenario networks might also struggle to find suitable management expertise.

Another concern was maintaining seamless community health and hospital avoidance strategies if small and base hospitals were separated.

“When the Commonwealth talks about efficiency, it does not recognise that Medicare does not give as much funding to rural and regional parts of the State as it does to urban centres,” he said.

“It is funded on the basis of the number of doctors which is one of the problems for the service model.

“If we take this into account we don’t do too badly per head but there needs to be some recognition that there is more of a burden being placed on community health.”



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