Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Complications send 'one in five' patients back to hospital

One in five Australians sent home from hospital are readmitted after suffering complications, prompting warnings that patients are being released too soon. A survey of 7000 patients admitted to hospital in the past two years in Australia, the US, Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Germany found Australia had the highest rate of readmission. "We are discharging too soon due to the pressure on beds in the public system," said Australian Healthcare Association executive director Prue Power. "Discharging patients too early because there is a pressure on hospital beds just causes patients to be readmitted, is not good for the patients and is not financially sound."

The Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey, to be released today in the US, compared health systems in six countries. It reports that 20per cent of Australians were readmitted to hospital after discharge, compared with only 10per cent in Germany and 14per cent in the US.

Eighteen per cent of Australians said hospital staff failed to warn them about the risks of surgery before a procedure and did not mention complications that could occur after discharge. "Staff clearly need to improve communication with patients," Ms Power told The Australian.

Cathy Schoen, vice-president of the Commonwealth Fund - a private foundation that conducts research on healthcare issues - said the number of medical errors occurring in all countries and the lack of co-ordinated care was a concern. "There were many symptoms of poorly co-ordinated care in every country, regardless of the type of delivery or financing system." Almost a third of Australian patients said they were given the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage, or received the wrong test results.

However, 70 per cent were not told about the errors. "Despite studies that patients value discussion about mistakes or errors, most patients, 61-83 per cent in each country, said that the doctor or health professional involved did not tell them about the mistake," the report says.



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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