Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interesting Development in Health Care

From today's news we have this article:

Pay $195 to jump queues at casualty

PATIENTS who pay $195 can jump the queues at hospital emergency departments when the nation's largest health fund opens its first standalone clinic today.

Medibank is guaranteeing patients with minor injuries and illnesses will be treated within one hour at its first Rapid Care Clinic in Brisbane.

The fund is confident it will have a Sydney facility operating in June.

The clinics, staffed by specialist emergency doctors, will deal with urgent but non-life-threatening medical conditions such as broken bones, sprain, cuts and minor burns, viruses, headaches, earaches and sore eyes.

Twenty thousand patients a month wait more than the clinically-recommended one hour to be treated in the clogged emergency departments in public hospitals.

Single mother Kylie Endycott, who spent five hours at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital yesterday after her one-year-old son Beau had difficulty breathing, said the clinics were a great idea but thought fees could be altered for different family situations.

Almost 170,000 people using a public hospital emergency department leave in frustration every year because of their wait for treatment.

Medibank hopes to fill this gap.

"Anybody who experienced attending a busy hospital emergency room with a minor injury or sick child, tried to get an appointment with their GP at short notice or out-of hours, will understand the Rapid Care Clinic," Medibank managing director George Savvides said.

The clinics will be open 365 days a year from 8am to 9pm to anyone, although Medibank members pay just $150 for a consultation and face no charge for X-rays, plaster or stitches.

The clinics will refer conditions such as chest pain, severe breathing difficulty, acute stomach pain, severe burns, loss of consciousness, head and neck injuries or pregnancy-related conditions to the nearest hospital.

Emergency medicine specialist Dr Peter Herron - who runs the Brisbane clinic, which has been open for a week and a half - has treated seven people including several fractures, a bee sting, a laceration and an earache.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Andrew Pesce said the clinics would help those who could afford them but was disappointed that underfunding of the public hospital system had made them necessary.

He is concerned they will lead to further fragmentation of patient care.

Those who use these clinics can't claim for their treatment from their health fund or Medicare and must pay the full cost out of their own pocket.

The Health Services arm of the fund has run similar clinics for corporate clients for years.


Here in Perth we have "After Hour GPs" which seem similar, however the cost is around $55 for a consultation some of which is reclaimable from Medicare.

The last time I went to the After Hours GP I arrived half an hour before it opened, and I was the second person waiting. By 10mins past opening time they had filled all appointment times for the next three hours and were turning people away.

Not sure I'ld be happy with paying $195 for a consultation, especially as I guess eventually you will still have to wait.


Old NFO said...

Just one more example of $$ buying service Julie... S/He who has the $$ gets the better treatment. I do wonder about the referral though- If they refer you, is it directly to the hospital, or do you THEN have to go wait in ER with the huddled masses???

TOTWTYTR said...

I generally put those under socialized health care success stories, but even in the US ED wait times are often long if your complaint is minor. I think the reasons might be different, but the results are the same.

I went to a "Minute Clinic" operated by a large pharmacy company a few weeks ago. I couldn't get in touch with my primary care doctor and the hospital's "urgent care" clinic often has a 3-4 hour wait for minor complaints. The minute clinic was five minutes from my house, saw me within 10 minutes of my arrival, and correctly diagnosed my problem. And it was covered by my health insurance, minus co-pay. All in all not a bad deal for minor maladies.