Catholic Health Australia says the Federal Government could cut 89,000 people from elective surgery waiting lists in a year by adopting a Queensland model which contracts private hospitals to treat public patients.
CHA said Queensland's Surgery Connect program had reduced the numbers of public elective surgery patients waiting longer than the medically acceptable times by 19 percent in 20 months, the Courier-Mail reports.
It had also reduced by 46.1 percent those waiting for surgery that needed to occur in 12 months.
"We've estimated that by utilising the spare capacity in private hospitals, you could treat 89,000 additional patients in year one," said CHA CEO Martin Laverty.
"We think this is the fastest way that the Commonwealth can contribute to improving the performance of public hospitals and making sure that people who've been waiting unreasonable times for their surgery get access to health care faster."
It would require an outlay of about $450 million in the 2010-2011 budget and an additional $5 million would be needed annually to fund a brokerage service, matching public patients with private hospital providers, but Mr Laverty said it is money "that would have to be spent at some point in time".
Queensland-based Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' president Ian Gough said, however, that Surgery Connect had problems which needed to be resolved before the scheme was taken on nationally. Australian Medical Association federal president Andrew Pesce said adopting Surgery Connect nationally would be a "short-term solution to a long-term problem".
Mr Laverty is also reported by the AAP as saying that CHA is opposed to Labor's plans to means test the 30 percent private health insurance rebate.
"We've said to the Government ... any measure that takes away incentives to take up private health insurance will see public hospitals deal with an increased workload," he said.
Bid to cut waiting lists (The Courier-Mail)
Roxon hints bigger private health role (Herald Sun/AAP)
MEDIA RELEASE AND SUBMISSION
Efficient and cost-effective health reform: PM has the power (Catholic Health Australia)
CHA Federal Budget Submission 2010-11 (Catholic Health Australia)