From our CEO

Hi All,

What a big month it has been in the political sphere – not just for Tasmania with a newly elected Liberal Government and Jeremy Rockliff taking over the Health portfolio but also with the Australian Government handing down the Federal Budget.

As a Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurer, we value the opportunity to advocate on your behalf for access to better and more affordable health care at the right time and at the right place.

We know that across our state, many Tasmanians are concerned when it comes to accessing specialists and receiving treatment in a timely manner. As a result many Tasmanians are turning to St.LukesHealth for assurance that their health needs will be met at a time when COVID-19 is placing increasing strain on a public health system.

The private health sector played a pivotal role during the peak COVID-19 period, supporting our frontline workers to concentrate on the very real pandemic risk, whilst ensuring those who needed care were catered for.

We are pleased to see the Gutwein Government acknowledging that there is only one health system in this state, with access being granted either through public or private channels.

Acknowledging that fact, the Gutwein Government is seeking assistance from the private hospital sector to assist the public system in managing the increased public elective surgery demand exacerbated by COVID-19 elective surgery closures.

This co-operation between the public and private acute care sectors is something we have called for, for some time, to ensure that both sectors are run as efficiently as possible. 

With a private hospital system not being challenged by the long waiting lists plaguing the public system, we have asked for and received assurances by our private hospital partners that our members will continue to receive treatment in the timely fashion they have come to expect, as they look to assist Government with the public waiting list.

St.LukesHealth is also extremely pleased to have a commitment for the development of a co-located hospital in the state’s North.

And it is because of you that this commitment has occurred and we’ve been able to advocate on your behalf, with a number of St.LukesHealth members voicing their thoughts, beliefs and concerns to us about this significant project back in December 2020.

The Gutwein Government has committed in its first 30 days of governing to finalise a Memorandum of Understanding with Calvary Healthcare to remove any outstanding impediments to the $120 million to the development of a co-located private hospital that will be located adjacent to the Launceston General Hospital.

The government has also committed to take all action necessary to fast-track the co-location project to enable better health services for the region. In considering Calvary’s proposal, we will be advocating with Government and working with Calvary Healthcare to ensure the development delivers the breadth and depth of acute services needed in the North and meets the expectations expressed by members.

St.LukesHealth intends to ensure that the Gutwein Government and newly appointed Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff keep these promises. We have already reached out to both parties to meet with them regarding this development and other health aspects. I have no doubt they are both up to the challenge.

On a national level St.LukesHealth has worked with our industry association, alongside the Australian Government, to progress the prostheses reform.

In the Federal Budget, the government committed to reducing the cost of medical devices used in the private health sector to improve the affordability for members.

While our ageing population and advances in medical technology contribute to the cost a person may pay for health insurance, the cost of medical devices is one of the largest drivers of premium increases.

In Australia, the price of more than 11,000 medical devices is set by a government committee, which dictates the price a health insurer, and thus members, must pay for devices used for hip or knee replacements, or even cardiac implants. It might sound like a good idea but in reality, it is a bad deal for everyday Australians.

Currently, the price of medical devices in Australia is around 30 per cent higher than in countries such as New Zealand, the UK and France. For example, the exact same stem used in a hip replacement costs more than $4000 in Australia while in New Zealand and the UK, it costs just $1800. This directly disadvantages you – our members – and this is why we are fighting so hard for this important reform.

Around $5.5 million is spent on medical devices each day in Australia, about $2 million of this is shipped offshore to big multinational medical technology companies. Just last financial year, prostheses accounted for about 25 per cent of hospital costs for Tasmanian members, equating to $15.5 million.

Reform in this area is vital.

While there is still much to be done, the Federal Budget commitment will ensure that we sustain and retain our world-class health system, whilst importantly ensuring treating doctors are able to use the best devices for their patients with no out-of-pocket cost.

I look forward to continuing to advocate for change in the best interests of you, our members, and updating you as more information on these initiatives becomes available.

- Paul Lupo, St.LukesHealth CEO

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