Chris Rex, APHA President

This year saw the passage of the legislation to means test the private health insurance rebate pass through Parliament. Following an 18 month long campaign by the APHA we were finally unsuccessful in our bid to stop this legislation. It was a very disappointing outcome for the private hospital industry and, as expected, was just the beginning.  Further attempts to dismantle the pillars of private health insurance have since been proposed by the ALP including the proposal to strip the rebate from the Lifetime Health Cover surcharge and, from 2014, index overall rebate increases in line with the consumer price index rathe than higher premium rises.  Both measures, if passed, will further erode the value of the rebate.

While private health insurance membership remains strong, we expect that over the next 18 months to two years, there will be a cumulative impact in terms of membership drop outs and downgrades.  Of course, if private health care becomes unaffordable, healthcare costs transfer back to the public system and is paid for by the taxpayer. At a time when the population is ageing and healthcare needs are rising, any government that does not encourage people to contribute to the cost of their healthcare is sending the wrong message about their ability to adequately do so.

The APHA has been at the forefront of these issues for over two years and this year, we continued to push this message to politicians and other stakeholders.  In 2013, the organisation will remain focused on campaigning against the two new proposals that the government will try to push through parliament early next year. To this end, we are meeting with key federal MPs in Canberra and have been encouraged by their reception.

During the year, Health Workforce Australia (HWA) released its Health Workforce 2025 report in three volumes which describes the health workforce shortages to 2025 for doctors, nurses and midwives.  The projected nursing workforce shortage is highly significant and relevant to private hospitals that currently employ close to 60,000 full time equivalent staff and this is growing at over eight percent per year.  It is generally accepted that Australia will continue to experience increasing demand for health care workers at a rate that will challenge our training and service delivery systems. It is vital that private hospitals have a say in workforce reforms and the APHA’s workforce committees are working very closely with HWA and other relevant bodies on strategies to address the workforce issues.

2012 saw the APHA run a third successful Private Hospital Week as well as a very well-orchestrated campaign during mental health week demonstrating the role of private hospitals in mental health care.  The materials and online campaign produced for mental health week were of a very high standard and I am sure that this campaign will only get better in years to come. Thank you to the Communications and Marketing Taskforce for your role in bringing these campaigns to fruition.

APHA elected a new Board in October and I am pleased to welcome Anne Crouch from Eye-tech Day Surgeries in her role of Communications & Marketing Taskforce Chair. Anne joins Richard Royle, Geoff Sam, Philip Currie, Christine Gee, Danny Sims, Alan Cooper and Robert Cooke on the Board.

I would like to recognise the work of three APHA Board and Council members who resigned this year: Stephen Walker, George Toemoe and Mark Stephens and to take this opportunity to thank them for their contribution to the private hospital sector as Directors and/or Council Members of APHA.

New members of the APHA Council, Nick Warden and Bronwyn Mace, took up positions on the APHA Council in October.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of our major sponsors in 2012 without whom it would be very difficult to conduct the quality activities of the APHA.

Finally, I would like to thank the APHA secretariat for their outstanding efforts in 2012.  Behind every successful organisation is a successful team and there is no question that the APHA team perform admirably in their roles and provide exemplary service and commitment to the private hospital industry.  Thank you specifically to Michael, Lisa, Lucy and Kathryn who have been great support to me in my role as President.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.