Throw away patch protection in the interests of patients, says retiring Board Chair

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

‘Let’s re-imagine healthcare—and start by working together to produce outcomes that matter to patients’, says Dr Deborah Cole, retiring Chair of the Board of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

‘The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that we have very little excess capacity in our health system to meet the chronic care needs of a growing and ageing population.

‘We need to use our scarce health labour workforce wisely. And that means breaking down some traditional, and I would say out-of-date and illogical, care barriers.

‘Why are some healthcare groups so protective of their patches? Because the services are in demand!

‘But we need to ensure we have the right workforce in place to meet patient needs, or we will continue to experience higher prices, longer waiting times and clinics—especially in regional areas—where the books are closed to new patients.

‘And with a shortage of readily available, accessible and affordable services in the community, we have extra pressure on public hospitals because people find they have nowhere else to go.

‘To provide the right service, by the right person at the right time and in the right place, health practitioners should work to top-of-scope as much as possible—not the whole scope—particularly when there are some parts of their jobs where others are just as capable of providing that service to the highest standard at a lower cost.

‘Transformation is needed. Look at the fabulous virtual hospital examples during COVID. And the use of wearable devices linking to health practitioners.

‘Why aren't some of these ideas being transferred to use with all people with chronic diseases and co-morbidities?

‘There have been small steps towards reform, but let’s do it on a larger scale—and price it at a reform price—not price it out of the market using current fee structures. 

‘I am very proud of the blueprint for health reform that AHHA developed during my term as Chair. It reflected the views of all the members and much of what it advocates has been taken up as part of the nation’s COVID19 response—for example widespread use of telehealth consultations.

‘Let’s extend and refine the efficiency of that process and ramp up the “caring” component of telehealth.

‘COVID-19 has shown that we can reimagine health. When the crisis abates, let’s do the necessary evaluation, research, process re-engineering and business modelling to build on what we saw was achievable through the COVID response.

‘A reimagined health system is within reach—with little detriment to the livelihoods of healthcare professionals but a huge payoff in terms of results that matter to patients.

‘Let’s start by getting rid of inefficient patch protection.’

The Hon. Jillian Skinner, former NSW Health Minister, takes up the position of AHHA Board Chair on 1 July 2020.


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

Media enquiries: Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, AHHA, 0403 282 501