27/02/2018 - 16:03

Sustainable health system requires change

27/02/2018 - 16:03

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A review of Western Australia’s health sector has found an increased spend in preventive measures and an expansion of telehealth technology would be among several changes needed to ensure a sustainable system.

Sustainable health system requires change
Robyn Kruk (left), Roger Cook and Fiona Wood say telehealth is one of several focuses needed for health. Photo: Attila Csaszar

A review of Western Australia’s health sector has found an increased spend in preventive measures and an expansion of telehealth technology would be among several changes needed to ensure a sustainable system.

The Sustainable Health Review (SHR) Interim Report noted the health budget had more than doubled over the past decade – increasing from 24.9 per cent of the state budget in 2009 to 30 per cent of the current budget.

Should this trajectory continue, the health budget will consume nearly 38 per cent of the WA state budget by 2026-27.

Panel leader for the report, Robyn Kruk, said the rate of growth in WA was alarming and the state had experienced vast avoidable costs.

Just 2.7 per cent of the health spend was put towards prevention and promotion, Ms Kruk said, less than other states and far less in comparison to New Zealand’s 7 per cent prevention spend.

Health Minister Roger Cook said WA needed to become serious about prevention and increase spend in that area, but did not specify a figure.

The report found that salaries for staff within WA, particularly doctors and nurses, were among the highest in the country, with workforce costs being 13 per cent more expensive than across Australia.

Low wages growth, consistent with expectations across the WA public and private sectors, must become a reality of the WA health system, it said.

Mr Cook responded to the finding, saying no more than a $1,000 pay rise would be granted to doctors and nurses and that this was not up for negotiation.

Some of the immediate recommendations by the report included the need to improve ICT systems across the state’s health sector, without compromising other initiatives.

“Our health services must become more efficient and effective, which means progressing towards a digital health system, focusing on reducing waste and encouraging innovative practice,” Mr Cook said.

“It is clear that what is required for the sustainability of the WA health system now goes beyond buildings.”

Telehealth technology could increase a patient-centred approach and reduce costs, increasing efficiency, the report found.

Burns surgeon Fiona Wood demonstrated the effective use of telehealth at the Royal Perth Hospital today.

Via teleconference, a burns victim described how she was able to use the technology to surgically place a balloon under her skin and blow it up remotely, saving her hours of time, money and the need to take time off work.

The SHR Interim Report will be used to inform changes to the current system and welcomes public feedback preceding a final report to be released in November.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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