$3 Billion to increase Hospital Access for Veterans - Friday 23 June 2006

The Australian Government will spend more than $3 billion over the next four years to expand veterans' access to private hospital services, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Bruce Billson, announced today. Mr Billson said as a result of the first national private hospital tender conducted by the Department of Veterans' Affairs members of the veteran community and their treating doctors would have much greater choice of, and a wider access to medical facilities.

"As a result of the tender process we have doubled the number of private hospitals across Australia that are approved to provide high-standard health services for veterans," he said. All hospitals contracted by DVA to provide services to veterans are licensed, quality accredited, and have agreed to provide preferential access to veterans, subject to clinical need.

Each year, more than 60,000 veterans access private hospitals for medical and surgical services paid for by the Australian Government. "These new arrangements mean veterans can access a full range of treatment services from large metropolitan surgical hospitals, regional facilities and small local hospitals close to family and home.

Mr Billson said until now doctors had been required to seek prior approval from DVA before admitting a veteran patient to some hospitals. "Most prior approval requirements have now been removed, simplifying hospital access and streamlining administration," he said. "The hospital to which a veteran is admitted is determined by their treating doctor based on clinical need. Doctors now have more choice and greater flexibility. For example, a veteran from a rural area requiring major surgery could have the operation in a large metropolitan facility, but be moved closer to home and their family as they recuperate and no longer need specialised care."

Veterans in Brisbane and Perth will continue to have access to the full range of services currently offered by the former Repatriation hospitals - Greenslopes in Brisbane and Hollywood in Perth. However, depending on their clinical needs, they now also have the option of being treated at one of 13 other hospitals in Brisbane and nine additional facilities in Perth. The Minister thanked Ramsay Health Care, for the care provided to veterans through Greenslopes and Hollywood Hospitals for the past 10 years.

Mr Billson said contracted hospitals have also been offered incentives to improve the quality of care for veterans. "For example we are funding some chronic care pilot programs and there are incentives for hospitals to develop treatment plans for chronic conditions commonly experienced by veterans such as diabetes, coronary disease or respiratory disease. "The aim is to help veterans to improve their quality of life and reduce the time they need to spend in hospital. This might include developing innovative care strategies, arranging visits by community nurses, or providing veterans with the knowledge and skills to better manage their own conditions so they can avoid unnecessary hospital admission.

"As well as preventing hospital admissions we are also encouraging hospitals to ensure veterans are well and have suitable post-hospital arrangements in place before being sent home," he said. Mr Billson also noted that these private hospital arrangements supplement agreements with each State and Territory Government under which the Commonwealth meets the full cost of veteran treatment in public hospitals. "These new arrangements clearly demonstrate the Australian Government's commitment to provide best possible quality of health services to our veteran community," Mr Billson said.

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Cameron Hill
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