Public hospital funding key to addressing elective surgery wait times

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

‘Today’s release of figures showing waiting times for privately funded patients in public hospitals are shorter than for public patients is not a reason to finger-point or jump to unsupported conclusions’, says Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

Ms Verhoeven was commenting on the release by the Australian Institute of Healthand Welfare (AIHW) of its Admitted patient care 2015–16: Australian hospital statistics report.

‘While the AIHW has highlighted the difference in median waiting times for a group of patients that represents 6.9% of all patients admitted to public hospitals for elective surgery, the key issue is that public hospitals need to be appropriately funded to treat all patients on their waiting lists.

‘This includes the Commonwealth and the states and territories reaching a sustainable funding agreement beyond 2018, as all first ministers agreed at the COAG meeting in April 2016.

‘There are valid reasons for using private health insurance in public hospitals, including the lack of availability of private hospital care in some regional areas, visiting officer practice rights in public hospitals and patient choice of clinician, all of which are longstanding fundamental features of our health system.

‘Hospitals across Australia have different arrangements in place with surgeons, other private providers and in the way they manage elective surgery waiting lists and use of private health insurance. To present only a national figure is a blunt approach which tells an incomplete story.

‘For data of this type to usefully inform the debate, more detailed information needs to be provided that isolates where and how private health insurance is being used by patients in different hospitals across the country, and the circumstances in which it is used.

‘Better data will usefully inform future National Health Reform Agreement discussions between the states and territories and the Commonwealth on the impact of private patients in public hospitals. 

‘The outcome of such discussions must ensure that public hospital resources are sufficient to deliver services to public patients, including elective surgery, in a timely manner,’ says Ms Verhoeven.


For more information on the AHHA, visit

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries: Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, 0403 282 501