State's hospitals in bad shape: report

If a blame game is going on over the state of the country's hospitals, health ministers refuse to admit they're playing.

The Australian Medical Association's (AMA) annual report on public hospitals shows little improvement in capacity and waiting times over the past year.

The lack of progress is the result of a "blame game" between state and federal governments, the AMA says.

But Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says she's not pointing the finger at the states.

"I'm not blaming anyone," she said yesterday.

"Improving our health system has to be a partnership.

"Extra money has to come with better management, not just from the Commonwealth, but also the states and territories."

The 2013 AMA Public Hospital Report Card, covering the year to June 2012, found more than a third of patients classified as urgent at Australia's public emergency departments were not being seen in the recommended time.

It also found no improvement from 2010-11 in the amount of patients waiting too long.

AMA president Steve Hambleton said delays in emergency room consultations for urgent patients could lead to deaths.

"If there's insufficient beds in the system and we can't get people out of emergency it does cause harm," Dr Hambleton said.

"We do see unnecessary deaths that we do want to protect against."

The AMA has called for federal and state governments to work together, focus on problems with public hospitals and stop blaming each other.

The AMA said almost 20 per cent of elective surgery patients were not admitted within the recommended times, with 2.7 per cent waiting more than a year for their surgery.

In NSW, patients were waiting two days longer for elective surgery than in 2010-11, while the proportion of urgent patients seen within the recommended 30 minutes remained static at 71 per cent.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said emergency departments in NSW hospitals treated a third of the country's patients and did so in times better than the national average.

But she admitted hospitals still needed to improve.

Ms Skinner said the state government was also not playing a blame game with the federal government.

"We're working very closely with the Commonwealth government," she said.

The NSW health budget increased by 5.2 per cent in 2012-13, with 3000 new nurses and 2000 new nurse graduates being employed this year, she said.

Opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald said the NSW government was responsible for the lack of improvement in the state's hospitals.

"The system is under increasing pressure and not coping," he said.

The report found hospitals in all states fell short of the performance target of 80 per cent of urgent patients being seen in recommended time-frames. 



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