Falling healthcare rating points to crisis

·2-min read

Australians think the healthcare system is getting worse, as they grapple with long emergency department wait times, and being able to afford and access essential services.

The country's healthcare rating dropped from 7.8 out of 10 in March last year, to 7.2 in June this year, the Australian Healthcare Index survey shows.

The survey had 11,652 respondents and was conducted in April.

The findings indicate an "impending and significant" health crisis, Healthengine chief executive Marcus Tan says.

"The overall trend is heading in the wrong direction suggesting that the Australian healthcare system is under stress, likely leading to worse experiences and outcomes," Dr Tan said.

Survey participants had three major concerns; the cost of private healthcare insurance, emergency department waiting room times, and access to mental health care.

The issues of private health insurance and mental health care were intertwined.

People wanted value for money for their private health insurance to be able to access high quality psychological care, Australian Psychological Society chief executive Zena Burgess said.

Nearly one in four survey respondents said their mental health declined in the past six months and almost 60 per cent of people still seeking treatment had been waiting more than three months.

Separate research from the psychological society showed one in three psychologists were unable to see new clients post-pandemic, whereas the figure was one in 100 beforehand.

"Demand for mental health services is rising: Australians are suffering from crisis fatigue as they deal with natural disasters, the pandemic and global uncertainty," Dr Burgess said.

"All the while the cost of living continues to rise."

Nearly 40 per cent of respondents to the healthcare index survey who had visited a public hospital emergency department in the past six months were dissatisfied with their experience.

The study also pointed to elective surgery wait times as a major issue for Australians, with 56 per cent of category one patients waiting more than the recommended 30 days for treatment, and 15 per cent waiting more than a year.

The findings showed access to timely care was in a "holding pattern", Australian Patients Association chief executive Stephen Mason said.

One in four survey respondents said prescription medication was unaffordable.

On the COVID-19 front, nearly one in five of those surveyed were yet to receive their booster vaccine dose.

Of those yet to receive it, nearly 30 per cent said they didn't feel like they needed a booster after receiving two vaccinations.

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