Page 5165 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 18 November 2009

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I want to also add that the Greens have been in close communication with the Health Care Consumers Association, the ANF and the Palliative Care Society throughout this process and in developing the motion today. The Greens have a variety of reasons for arguing that public health facilities are best placed under government ownership. The first reason is that public health services should maximise the benefits provided to the ACT people and those of the surrounding region. Our health dollars are precious, and already they total some $1 billion on an annual basis in the ACT. That is one-third of the ACT government’s budget, and yet we are in a situation where those dollars are inadvertently cross-subsidising private health care.

In 2008 the ACT Auditor-General published a performance audit report titled Management of Calvary hospital agreements. The report implied that there was a high risk that the agreements were not being complied with and the territory’s financial interests were not being protected. I quote from the Auditor-General’s media release:

In providing for a private hospital, the Agreements call for a high degree of separation between the hospitals.

That is, the public and the private. It continues:

This has not been achieved, and the lack of clarity and transparency has contributed to difficulties in managing the agreements.

The agreements define the funding of CHC as being on the basis of cost recovery. However, this has not been implemented effectively, with the risk that the public hospital has subsidised the private hospital.

The performance audit took a number of samples of major cross-charge calculations by Calvary Health Care and found that there were concerning levels of omissions and incorrect charges. However, Calvary Health Care often disputed claims of underpayments, and subsequent discussions with ACT Health led to agreed, often lower amounts being repaid. At a time of growing demand for health services and a commitment to universal health care, especially for those from vulnerable groups, we should do what we can to maximise our health dollars. Our public health system is there to provide for the ACT people; it is not there to subsidise a private organisation such as Calvary Health Care.

The same rule applies when we talk about the investment of dollars in the health system and capital. The Greens agree with the minister’s argument that the $200 million to be invested in a north side hospital should maximise benefit to the ACT people. If the investment is made and Calvary Health Care maintains ownership of Calvary Public Hospital, LCM balance sheets will reap the benefit and the ACT government will not. There is no way around this. The asset belongs to LCM through Calvary Health Care. Why should they, a national organisation with some 15 hospitals and a private body with some 9,000 staff, reap the benefit while the ACT people miss out?

The other reason why government should own public healthcare facilities is because of the need to be able to have control over the asset and the public health services

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