Why we should privatise hospitals

Public dental services may benefit from privatisation a new report suggests. Picture: iStock

SOCIAL housing, some hospital services and public dental care are among six priority areas that could benefit from privatisation, the Productivity Commission has found.

The commission released a preliminary findings report today that identified six areas it believes could benefit from being privatised.

They include:

• social housing;

• services at public hospitals;

• specialist palliative care;

• public dental services;

• services in remote indigenous communities; and

• family and community services.

“Reform in the areas we have identified has the potential to improve the lives of users and the welfare of the whole community,” Productivity Commissioner Stephen King said.

But the Labor Party has been angered by the new report, warning it could lead to higher prices and fewer services.

The commission suggests there’s room for improvement in the management of social housing services, highlighting concerns such as long waiting lists, poorly maintained properties and a lack of information to judge providers’ performance.

A majority of properties were run by government entities but there was a large number of providers, including some profit-making, which could do the job, it said.

Giving people greater choice could also give them more options for a roof over their heads.

On hospitals, the commission said it would welcome evidence on whether governments could use routine renegotiations with providers to consider alternatives to public healthcare.

That’s because most public hospitals didn’t have a formal selection process and providers rarely changed, it said.

The commission added while allowing private operators to run public hospitals was rare — because of a series of failed attempts in previous years — this wouldn’t be much of a problem today because of better checks and balances.

And greater user choice over public hospitals could help disadvantaged people.

States and territories could consider replacing senior management in government operated hospitals who don’t perform well.

“This would not require switching to a non-government provider,” it said.

Some hospital services could benefit from privatisation says a new report.

Some hospital services could benefit from privatisation says a new report.Source:News Corp Australia

On public dental services, the commission said they could be made more contestable if bids were allowed from private operators.

“More competition and choice could involve using delivery mechanisms that allow users to choose between competing private dental practices.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten, who said the opposition would fully study the report, said Australians had seen such moves before.

“Here we go again,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday. “Why is it that the government uses code words in this report that the public get less service and pay more money.”

The commission is welcoming feedback on the report via submissions before the final study report is due to be released in November.

The commission inquiry into applying competition principles to human services was a recommendation of the Harper Review (Competition Policy Review).

An inquiry report will be completed next year and will include recommendations on policy reform.

More details can be found at http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/human-services/identifying-reform.

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