There are 118 private hospitals in Queensland with a total bed capacity of 6100 - that’s 1 in 3 of all hospital beds in Queensland. Every year private hospitals receive billions of dollars in public subsidies, while last year alone the two biggest private hospital corporations in Queensland (Ramsay Health Care & Healthscope) made $7 billion in revenue and $1.3 billion in profit.
Recently the third-largest private hospital provider attempted to hold the Government and public to ransom, threatening to lay off thousands of doctors and nurses, and shut down hospitals in the middle of one of the worst healthcare crises in our country's history. This is exactly why crucial services like healthcare should not be provided by private corporations - ultimately they always choose profit over people.
The decision by the Federal Government to spend $1.3 billion to guarantee the viability of private hospitals in exchange for temporarily bringing them under the control of the State governments demonstrates that it’s possible to integrate the private hospitals into our public system.
But we shouldn’t have to line the pockets of private corporations to provide healthcare to our sick.
The Queensland Greens would
- Following the end of the emergency Federal Government viability guarantee agreement, permanently transition all private hospitals into public hands to rapidly expand the capacity of the public health system
- Guarantee the job of every nurse, doctor, surgeon and other workers at the private hospitals brought into public ownership
How would we pay for this
Government already covers a massive component of the costs associated with private hospitals, as Jennifer Doggett from the Australian Healthcare Reform Alliance has said:
The public invests billions each year into this sector - doctors and nurses are trained through publicly funded universities and in public hospitals, Medicare funds 75% of the schedule fee for services provided to private patients and the private health insurance rebate which subsidises the cost of private hospital insurance.2
Long term the Queensland Government would save millions of dollars as a result of no longer having to purchase extra capacity from private hospitals.
Just compensation would be arranged with each of the private hospitals and funded through savings made via the expansion of our public health system and the associated public health benefits of taking pressure off our existing public hospitals. Further funding would come from making big developers, banks and mining corporations pay their fair share in taxes and royalties.
How this would be implemented
Nationalising private hospitals would be a major and historic addition to our public health system and would require detailed planning, coordination and likely years of work.
Private hospitals would be transitioned into the public system, taking care to preserve the knowledge and skills they have built. Some private hospitals are run by not-for-profit organisations with experience in delivering healthcare, and that experience would be valued and retained.
What about private health insurance?
Before the crisis, private health insurance was already on the brink of collapse with rising premiums, growing out of pocket expenses and thousands of people cancelling their coverage3. The last thing we need is for the private health insurance industry to collapse without adequate capacity in the public health system to ensure everyone gets the care they need.
We need a fully funded public system that allows everyone to get elective surgery when they need it without having to wait for months on end. This includes bringing dental into Medicare to ensure everyone can see a dentist without having to pay.