Elderly hospital patients will have their average stay cut by almost two weeks under a new model of care, as part of a range of strategies to help save the NSW hospital system millions of dollars.
The health system has to make $2.2 billion in savings over four years, with an additional budget cut of $775 million in the same period.
The chief executive officer of the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Terry Clout, said he wanted the Prince of Wales Hospital to reduce the average length of patient stay for some procedures by a day, keeping it in line with more efficient practices at St George Hospital.
The length of hospital stay for aged-care patients would be reduced from an average of 22 days to 10. Patients would get after-care in their homes by medical ''flying squads'', he said.
Mr Clout said hospitals would be expected to ''maximise'' revenue opportunities this year, with more patients urged to use their private health insurance in public hospitals.
The amount of revenue the health district expected from private patients would vary. The Sutherland Shire had a high rate of patients with private insurance, for example. ''I would expect to collect more revenue from that area than I would, say, from the Botany area,'' he said.
The revenue targets from patients' fees will rise from $37.5 million last year to $41.2 million this year for St George Hospital; from $26.9 million last year to $31.6 million this year for the Prince of Wales; from $22.7 million to $24.5 million for Sutherland Hospital and to fall from $8.5 million to $8.2 million for the Royal Hospital for Women.
The Herald understands the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick forfeited up to $4 million it could have raised from patients with private health insurance last year, which could have prevented the local health district running over budget.
Mr Clout admitted it was increasingly difficult to find savings in the health system. ''None of this is easy. It requires us to make choices.
''Our objective is to get through this year's budget. We will worry about next year's budget next year.
The chief executive of Private Health Care Australia, Michael Armitage, said the national Medicare agreement entitled every citizen to free healthcare in a public hospital and that private health insurance premiums would rise if all public hospitals increased the number of privately insured patients they charged.
The NSW opposition spokesman on health, Andrew McDonald, said halving the length of stay for elderly patients would not save hospitals much money. ''You still have to pay for the outpatient care of the person and you still have to pay for the bed.''