Issues in Australian Health Services

Introduction

Australia is the smallest continent in the world, and on the other hand, the sixth biggest country in the world. In Australia, there is an independent, non-profit making, organization known as the Health Issue center – Victoria’s Health Consumer Organization. This center was founded in 1985 to promote and boost the Australian health system as well as curb the challenges that the Australian health system goes through. Their mission is to provide better and efficient health services especially to the disadvantaged members of the Australian society (Health Issues Centre, 2010).

The Australian Health Care service providers go through many issues brought about by different issues in society. For instance, as people continue aging, they continue demanding more health care services, and as technology continues to develop around the globe, people continue demanding better health services, climate changes among others.

Rising health care costs in Australia

One of the major challenges affecting the department of health care and aging in Australia is the rising cost of health care. The cost of health has been rising significantly in the past and is projected to continue rising even in the future. The current increase in commonwealth government spending on health is 15% and trends and statistics show that by 2050, this may have risen to 26% (Wellington, 2001).

Factors leading to the rising health care costs in Australia

Aging population

As the population continues to grow old, their health continues complicating thus the need to receive health care more frequently. According to the 2010 intergenerational report, the rate of increase of people over 65 years is right now 15%, and it is projected to increase to 23% by 2050 (The 2010 Intergenerational Report, 2010). With this rate of growth, around 5.1% of the population will be above 85 years (The 2010 Intergenerational Report, 2010). Old people are usually associated with many health complications some of which are dementia, mobility, hearing, seeing, and many other issues. These issues require medical attention and as people continue aging the need for treatment increases thus increasing the cost of general costs on health (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010).

Aged people’s allocation and spending on the annual budget are usually far much higher than what people under 65 years of age spend. Due to the increased projections on the growth rate of the aged people, the cost of health services to them will increase accordingly, with that of those above 85 years increasing even more. Their spending is likely to be even increased by the creation of homes for the aged, which are meant to care and provide comfort to them, and the diet to be provided to them since it has to be different from that of the ordinary Australian. Such projects are under the department of health and aging thus as the population continues to grow and age, more funds need to be allocated on issues concerning the aged (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010; The 2010 Intergenerational Report, 2010).

A growing population

The Australian population is predicted to grow by 63% come 2050. This growth rate calls for more demand for health services, need for more health facilities, and hiring more medical personnel to attend to the growing population. At the same time, as time goes by, the cost of living rises. There is a need to allocate more funds to train more medical personnel since when the population grows there is a need to increase the workforce in the health centers. All these factors have summed up to higher costs of health care thus creating pressure on the department of health (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010).

Technology

Globalization and other factors have to lead to a very high rate of advancement in technology all over the world. Australia is a developed continent that has not been left behind in this era of technology, which has impacted even the health sector. For instance, most of the medical examinations today are being carried out by use of very high technology like radiology, use of computers, and others. This has to lead to an increase in the cost of health since the machines and medication employed here are expensive.

Aboriginal people

These are indigenous groups of Australian citizens. For a long time, this group was rejected by the rest of the society as well as the government, they were discriminated against, marginalized, murdered, thrown out of their land and other property, and generally, they spent a very poor lifestyle. Due to this, they were not able to get quality health services, and this lead to a very high mortality rate among them. The Australian government changed their attitude towards Aboriginal people recently and their inclusion to the rest of the society meant allocation of funds to cater for their health issues and to help them manage their indigenous lifestyle wisely (Australian Indigenous Health Info Net, 2010, Bourke c, Bourke E and Edwards, 2006, ).

The Aboriginal mortality rate is above 80%, and their women are more likely to bear underweight infants as compared to non-indigenous Australians. They are very poor in maintaining their health and taking the right diet thus increasing the chances of illness and death rates. Statistics show that aboriginal people are more likely to get sexually transmitted infections; cigarette-related diseases, kidney diseases, and diabetes more than the non-indigenous people did and the rate of improvement of their health has been very low for a long time (Lewis, 2003, pg 234, Bourke c, Bourke E and Edwards, 2006).

Since the government has finally abolished discrimination against Aboriginals, it has to set aside medical funds to work and improve their health condition. The department of health has also to carry out mentorship to this native group on areas concerning diet, drug abuse, Sexually transmitted diseases among others. This has to lead to pressure in the health sector since this is a long-term strategic plan, which has led to a rise in the usual costs of health facilities. There has been a challenge as the government tries to provide health care services to these people due to the past relationship and challenge since the phobia of discrimination is still running in their blood (Bourke c, Bourke E and Edwards, 2006).

Other Factors

Other factors triggering an increase in the cost of health care are the increase in labor cost since most patients have some knowledge of medical field thus demanding better and quality services. The standards of lifestyle today have also risen that people expect to receive standard services to match with their lifestyle. Such services can only be provided at a higher cost thus rising in the health care cost. The free health care system in Australia has given citizens room for overconsumption and uncontrolled demand for health care services thus bringing pressure to the health care system on meeting the cost (Khalik, 2010).

Climate change has contributed a lot to the rising costs due to global warming which has its associated ailments and weakening of the immune system (The 2010 Intergenerational Report, 2010). Smoking is so prominent in Australia especially among the Aborigines and has increased chest problems in Australia thus raising the health costs (HB Consultants, 2010).

Effects of rising costs of healthcare in the Australian Population

The Australian population is responsible for paying tax that in turn is directed to the health care budget. The rising cost of health care means a bigger burden on the population through taxes. It also means that most of the government revenue will not be used for development projects thus slowing the economic growth of the country. Health care is among the most prioritized department in Australia thus rising costs poses a big challenge to the government budgetary system. Rising health care cost have an effect in the companies and industries since most employers cater for the health costs of their employees meaning the employer has to strain with the rising health care costs. Furthermore, the rising costs of health care results to a strain access of health services to individual citizens thus risking their health status (Bodenheimer, 2010).

For along time, the Australian government has had the most cost effective health care system. It used to provide free medical care to its citizens while maintaining quality and efficiency. Health-care services have been rising all over the world and this pressure has lead to the need of citizens to shoulder part of health care costs thus affecting the health care culture and norms. It has been a challenge to the Australia health care system to control the rising heath care system since the citizens have the mentality and are used to free health care system (Khalik, 2010).

Solutions to the rising cost of health care in Australia

As the cost of health care continues to rise in Australia, the government is putting effort into getting a solution to the situation. The department of health care has come with a 23-hour care centre that ensures high quality and effective care while minimizing stay in hospitals in order to take care of the rising costs (Ryan, et al, 2004). It is recommended that doctors do not keep patients in hospital for long and should avoid unnecessary diagnosis to cot on the spending.

Keeping patients in hospital for long risks them to fall and hospital related infections, calling for more medical attention thus increase health care costs. It is important to communicate effectively with the physicians in order to come up with a medical plan thus avoiding any costly delay, arrange for physician oversees and intensive care incase of a serious problem. (Anon, 2004).

For employers, it is necessary to employ the managed health care programs and that ensure that employees are attended to only when it is necessary and the services provided are cost effective. This strategy is made possible by use of health cost managers service. To discourage unnecessary medical treatment from the employees, the employer can make use of higher deductibles to ensure that employees shoulder a better weight of their medical requirements.

This will ensure that they seek medical attention only when it is necessary. Again, the employer can combine self-insurance with limited benefits policy like catering only for major medical bills like in-hospital while leaving the outpatient services to the employees. It is also necessary to increase on the employee’s cost sharing and to create awareness of how the health plan works as well as encouraging them to air their views concerning the rising need of cost management. (Arnold, 1990).

The Australian government should come up with a strategic plan of merging the gap between the non-indigenous Australians and the Aborigines in order to improve their lifestyle thus improving on their health status. Some of the areas of concern in the Aborigines lifestyle include diet, smoking, and other kinds of drug abuse, hygiene, need to prioritize medical attention among others. This will help reduce mortality rate and the pressure the Australian health system is going through when dealing with this native group.

The Australian government has introduced a system whereby they subsidize on the health costs in private hospitals. The agenda behind this is to encourage its citizens to seek medical attention in private hospitals thus reducing the pressure in public hospitals which it wholly supports (Willis, Reynolds 2009).

Strength and weaknesses of the above solutions

Introduction of a 23-hour system that minimizes stay in the hospital ensures high quality services at a lower cost. It prevents the patients from hospital related infections that may occur due to a long exposure to the hospital environs. This kind of a system relieves the medical staff of some duties thus enabling them to serve more patients. Contrary, the effort to minimize hospital stay may lead poor services to situations, which may require more and closer attention. It may lead to increased family care burden as most of the patients are discharged when they are still ailing.

When employers introduce restrictions to the health care services offered to their employees, it relieves the company of the unnecessary medical diagnosis some employees go through and leaves more time to increase the productivity of the company. However, this policy may lead to the employers suppressing the employees of their rights since it may not be easy to define the necessary or the unnecessary diagnosis. It may also be burdening the employees when they have to shoulder part of their medical bills. This policy is not recommendable since most employers are prone to looking for profits under all means including at the expense of the health of the employees.

The efforts of the government to improve the health and the general lifestyle of the Aborigines are a very important step to their lifestyle and to the general image of the government. It is a good step to merge the gap between the Aborigines and the non-indigenous Australia. The weakness of this effort is the approach of the government by including the police to force them to appreciate their effort. It would have been better if the used a better approach (Bourke c, Bourke E and Edwards, 2006).

Subsidizing the health care cost in private hospital will reduce congestion in public hospital as well as ensuring that Australians receive quality health care both in private and public hospitals. However, this strategy may lead to exploitation of the public by the private sector when the subsidies do not reflect in the actual costs of their services.

Conclusion

There are many issues surrounding the Australian Health system some of which have been mentioned above. The issue of rising health care costs has been rising rapidly in the recent past thus creating pressure on the Australian Health care system considering that health care is a very sensitive and demanding area in every country. In order to be able to curd this issue, the Australian health care system should continue identifying the possible causes to the rising cost its possible effects to the system and the population in general and then come up cost effective system.

References

Australian Indigenous Health Info net. (2010). Summary of Australian Indigenous health. Web.

Anon. (2004). Proactive Solutions to Rising Health Care Costs. The Medical Review, Vol. 1, No. 2. Somerville, AMS Public Relations Team. Web.

Arnold, C. (1990). One solution to rising healthcare costs. NY: Institute of Management Accountants. Web.

Bodenheimer, T. (2010). Annals of Internal Medicine. SA: University of California. Web.

Bourke, C., Bourke, E., and Edwards, B. (2006). Aboriginal Australia. Queensland, University of Queensland Press. Web.

Commonwealth of Australia. (2010). A National Health and Hospitals Network for Australia’s Future. Australia. Web.

HB consultants. (2010). Rising Health care costs. Web.

Health Issue Centre. (2010). An Australian Independent Health Policy Research and Action Centre. La Trobe University VIC 3086. Web.

Khalik, S. (2010). Challenge to control rising health-care costs. The Straits Times. Web.

Lewis, M. (2003). The People’s Health. Westport: Praeger Publishers. Web.

Ryan, R., et al. (2004). 24 hour Care Centre-Changing the culture of care. Journal of Advanced Nursing. Sydney. Web.

The 2010 Intergenerational Report. (2010). Australian Government Treasury. Australia. Web.

Wellington, H. (2001). Core Standards for Health Care Safety. Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care. Web.

Willis, E. and Reynolds, L. (2009). Understanding the Australian Health Care system. Chastwood, Heidi Allen. Web.

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