Monday, October 08, 2007

What on earth is wrong with our hospital system?

What on earth is wrong with our hospital system? In Sydney last month a mother miscarried in a toilet while wiating to be admitted. Her husband found her covered in blood and holding a live foetus between her legs.

In Canberra on Friday a 30-year old man suffered a heart attack while waiting to admitted. Staff are said to have at first thought he was sleeping.

Kevin Rudd says it’s the result of a blame game that leaves “gaps in the system” between the states and territories and the Commonwealth.

Tony Abbott say it’s the state’s fault – “they run public hospitals”, although he concedes that the Commonwealth has cut its share of (steadily increasing) hospital funding by 10 per cent in the past decade.

His most-recently offered solution is to make the running of the hospitals even more local - run by local community boards...

Taking a step back from the blame game, what’s happening seems absurd.

Australians are richer and better able to fund hospitals than ever before. And we want to.

Before each election for the last 20 years the ANU has asked us what matters most when it comes to casting our votes.

Until 2001 it was tax. More voters cared about tax than they did about action on health, education or employment.

But the importance of health had been climbing for some time. In 2004 it leapfrogged tax to become the clear number one. In that election 30 per cent of voters said that health mattered more to them than any other election issue, almost double the 16 per cent for whom tax mattered the most.

They are unlikely to have been lying as is often alleged when people tell pollsters they want spending on something other than their hip pockets, because in earlier polls they had said their pockets mattered the most.

It is the kind of change in attitude that’s to be expected as a society becomes more wealthy. Extra personal wealth matters less. People want and can afford what extra personal wealth can’t buy – a hospital system that works.