Friday, November 03, 2006

Amazing: Nowhere to have a baby

Government health services in the Australian State of Victoria on display

This month, Clare Hooton will give birth to her fourth child -- but she has no idea where it will be born. Nearby Alexandra Hospital was named one of the state's three best rural hospitals at the Victorian Public Healthcare Awards last month. Twelve days earlier, it closed its doors to birthing mothers, citing a chronic shortage of specialist staff.

At 39 and having suffered one miscarriage, Ms Hooton said the closure had left her feeling frightened and isolated. "When I moved from Melbourne (six years ago), I thought we're relatively close to services, but . . . it's beginning to feel more and more like the Outback," she said.

Fifteen years ago, Alexandra Hospital had five GPs who could deliver babies and three GPs qualified to administer anaesthetics. A month ago it had just one GP available to deliver babies, a gynaecologist who visited once a month, no anaesthetic service and too few midwives to fill a daily roster. The decline has seen births fall to just 10-12 a year. "Between 135 and 150 women have babies in the area each year, so it could be viable if they had the services," Ms Hooton said. She said it was ironic services were cut at the same time families were being encouraged to move to rural Victoria.

Ms Hooton had decided to move in with her parents' in Glen Waverley [Melbourne] and give birth at nearby Monash Medical Centre, but was told it only took risky pregnancies. "My doctor is trying to see if he can work out of Mansfield Hospital," Ms Hooten said.


Surgery waiting list blows out

Government health services in the Australian State of Queensland on display

The number of Queenslanders waiting longer than recommended for urgent surgery has blown out over the past quarter, new figures show.

Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said today that shortages in medical specialists and growing demand for services were putting pressure on the state's hospitals. Mr Robertson told parliament that while hospitals were treating more of the most urgent cases, the number of patients having long waits for surgery had risen over the quarter. He said 360 category 1 patients and 2942 category 2 patients had long waits - up 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively, over the quarter.

But the state's public hospitals had set a record for total activity, treating more than 467,000 patients over the past three months. "What this means is that our public hospitals are busier than ever and treating more Queenslanders than ever before," Mr Robertson said. The minister said regional hospitals' performance had improved, with Bundaberg Hospital lifting its elective surgery rate by 53 per cent over the quarter.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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