Australia’s Public Hospitals in Very Poor Shape

In a country with such a complex health system that many of its own inhabitants sometimes find it confusing, one would expect public hospitals to uphold a standard of hygiene and safety. However, recent data, issued by the National Health Performance Authority, a regulator in the field, has revealed that Australia’s public hospitals are far from top grade. The industry observer analyzed the presence of Golden Staph in the country’s public health care facilities, since this method is regularly used to gauge the level of quality service and safety in hospitals. This infection is bloodstream-borne and can cause the death of those who have it. In fact, some 20 to 35 per cent of all those infected expire because of Golden Staph, which goes to show just how dire the problem in Australian hospitals is at the moment.

The aim of the country-wide analysis is two-fold. On the one hand, it helps public health facilities measure up their own performance against that of the others, in order to improve their standing, or to identify what areas require further efforts. On the other, it also helps patients decide where to check themselves in for surgery and other types of intervention. It’s worth noting that the virus has affected over 1,700 patients throughout Australia over the past twelve months. Also, it’s important to understand that this form of evaluation might not prove entirely accurate for smaller health facilities, where the existence of a single case can impact its overall percentage of safety to a greater extent than in the case of bigger hospitals.

According to the survey, St George Hospital ranks highest in terms of the rate of infections per 10,000 days of treatment, with a 2.1 rate. The highest number of cases was reported at Westmead Hospital, where 62 patients contracted the so-called ‘super bug’ (in spite of this, though, the rate of infections stands at a significantly superior 2.14 per cent).

State-wise, New South Wales seems to be in the most deplorable situation, when it comes to the quality of its public hospitals. A staggering four out of Australia’s ‘worst’ hospitals by Golden Staph infection rate are located in NSW, with John Hunter Hospital and Prince of Wales coming in third and fourth, respectively, after the two afore-mentioned hospitals. Hospitals in Victoria have much lower rates, with a spike at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute (2.3). However, this facility did manage to improve on its performance from the previous year, by taking the number of cases down from 16 to 11. The fact that this is a facility for cancer patients also understandably increases the patients’ risk for catching the bug.

Queensland seems to be faring the best, out of all federal states, with Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital ranking the lowest by rate of Golden Staph infections among big facilities. Its infection rate stands at 0.47, with no more than 9 cases in 2011 – 2012. Meanwhile, the highest rate of infection recorded at a major hospital in the country was posted at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in South Australia and stands at 2.15. 62 cases of Golden Staph infections were recorded there over the past twelve months. Tasmania’s hospitals generally display good rates, while those who indicated poorer performances can generally be ranked among small hospitals.

The results of the recent poll speak volumes about the state of the nation’s health and they are also an important reminder for consumers to start thinking about their health insurance needs and compare private health insurance options before changes come into effect. While the percentage of Australians who have taken out private health coverage now stands at the highest levels since 1988, it’s important to understand that insurance isn’t simply another bill on the list of monthly expenses. It can also become a potentially life-saving instrument, if one were to judge by the above results alone.