Cost and Long Waits Mar Australia’s Health Care System

canstockphoto11451317Healthcare costs are on the increase in much of the western world and recent news seems to confirm this trend, even in a country that prides itself on providing extended access to medical care as Australia. According to the latest set of data, recently released by the National Health Performance Authority, one in seven people in need of medical attention in Australia will purposely ignore making a doctor’s appointment, solely because they find it too expensive to visit their GP. Just as worrying is the response which attests that some 28 per cent of Aussie patients will have to wait their turn, before they can even schedule a doctor’s appointment. The study is the first of its kind in the land down under, as no other reports had previously been published with respect to the attitude toward GP care in Australia.

The same report provided a veritable X-ray of the state of the nation’s health, classified by geographic area and found that Queensland’s Darling Downs, Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, and Tasmania could use a serious reform of their healthcare infrastructure. According to responses provided in the poll, almost 20 per cent of inhabitants in these regions feel their health could do with a lot of improvement; it is equally likely that the health care system in the area might benefit from some improvement. Governmental bodies and private practitioners have been urging patients to compare private health insurance since the very implementation of the current system, which is partly funded through private contributions. There are numerous platforms online available for running comparisons at the moment and ‘digital window shopping’ is a proven method for identifying the best offers for one’s needs and lifestyle. Private health coverage goes a long way, when it comes to keeping healthy and to saving money on healthcare costs, in the long run.

In contrast, the same study has highlighted Australia’s healthiest areas, which also happen to be some of the most affluent. The North Shore and Beaches in Sydney, on a par with Bayside in Melbourne, boast a nearly unanimous feel of physical wellbeing and fitness, with up to 91 per cent of respondents claiming that the state of their health is good, very, good, or excellent. Of course, this self-assessment might not be relevant to the actual conditions of health displayed by the population, but the aim of this poll was to reveal perceptions and attitudes toward health, rather than gauging medical facts and stats.

Cost was also taken into consideration by the social scientists who coordinated the survey. Their findings are rather on the jarring side, particularly in Canberra. Canberra’s inhabitants largely have difficulties in accessing proper medical care – this is partly due to the fact that bulk billing is not a habitual occurrence in Canberra and the cost of a single visit to one’s general practitioner can amount to as much as $75-$80. This means 15 per cent of the population simply cannot afford a visit to the doctor over there, a figure in stark contrast to southwest Melbourne’s mere 3 per cent of citizens faced with a similar problem.

Waiting one’s turn for access to medical care is also an issue that the survey looks at: in New South Wales’ New England 28 per cent of patients have to wait before they can see a doctor. By comparison, in the northern Brisbane metropolitan area only 8 per cent of patients felt they had had to wait for too long. Waiting is not the only issue in the southern parts of New South Wales – difficulties in reaching one’s GP of choice is a problem for more than fifty per cent of the patients there, compared to a much smaller ratio of 23 per cent in southwester Sydney.

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