Report reveals ‘alarming impact’ of lockdown restrictions on private hospitals

At the end of October 2021, the eligibility checks for skin procedures had fallen by 21%, renal and bladder procedures by 25%, gynecology by 34%, gastrointestinal endoscopy by 25% and cardiac and vascular procedures by 11%. Of all the procedures, cataracts were the most affected, falling 52% from normal levels.

In Victoria, most of the 83 private overnight hospitals and 105 private day procedure clinics that remain under restrictions are not equipped to admit or treat patients with COVID-19.

Members Health CEO Matthew Koce warned that the more the Victorian government implemented restrictions on private hospitals, the more severe the impacts on people’s health and well-being.

“The data we are seeing is unprecedented in Australia and signals an avalanche of complex and very serious health issues underway,” Koce added. “Living in pain and on strong medications, with the added uncertainty of not knowing when surgery will resume, has an overwhelming impact on people’s mental health and their quality of life. “

On the bright side, the Members Health report found that cancer chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy checks defied the wider decline.

Read more: APRA releases latest annual data on private health insurers

Eligibility checks are a leading indicator of current and future demand for healthcare, as hospitals perform checks with health insurers to determine patients’ eligibility for private healthcare benefits prior to admission.

Koce explained that locking out Victoria’s elective surgery could prevent people from seeing properly and cause them to manage pain with strong opioids and lack quality time with family and friends. It could also lead to more complex surgery and a higher risk of poorer clinical outcomes.

“The consequences of these drastic restrictions on the health and well-being of people are simply not worth it and can no longer be justified as being ‘in the public interest’,” Koce continued.

“Treatment delays also have a profound impact on mental health. The fact that psychiatric services have rebounded to 100% so quickly is even more important proof of the toll this pandemic and these hospital restrictions have on the mental health of many Australians. “

Besides eligibility checks, private health insurance is another crucial factor for Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in their ability to access preventive health services.

HCF research found that in the past two years, 93% of Australians with private health insurance covered by Extras have used and requested services, such as dental services, optical services, physiotherapy services , chiropractic or massage, or mental health services.

Focusing on prevention, Australians shared that having access to private health insurance makes it easier to access preventive treatment, with 71% of respondents saying that preventive health care reduces the need for more extensive treatment later. Meanwhile, 55% said they would be more likely to use preventative treatment if everyone had access to private health insurance.

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