Five reasons to be optimistic about the health system in 2023

January 23, 2023

Continuing waves of COVID-19, a burgeoning elective surgery list, and extreme demand impacting Victoria’s hospital emergency departments – the headlines are often bleak, but there are reasons to be hopeful for the health system in 2023.

There is no doubt our public health services are facing immense challenges as we enter the fourth year of the pandemic, but if we don’t see more severe variants of COVID-19, 2023 could be a welcome turning point for our health system.

The VHA takes a look at some of the innovations and opportunities that will help our health system recover in the year ahead.

‘Our hospitals and community health services have developed many new ways to speed up care for people who need it most, and I think we’ll start seeing those innovations pay off for more patients this year,’ VHA Deputy CEO Juan Paolo Legaspi said.

‘For example, the new “virtual emergency department” model is preventing up to 78% of unnecessary ambulance trips to busy emergency departments like the Alfred Hospital. This reduces waiting times for emergency care and means more people are receiving appropriate health care closer to home.’

‘We’re also seeing an enormous amount of work to reduce elective surgery waiting lists. Some hospitals are now doing surgery on weekends, some have private hospitals assisting them, and there are innovative programs trying non-surgical interventions to resolve people’s problems so they can avoid surgery altogether.’

A shortage of trained health workers remains a huge problem for our health system, but recent data from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency shows migration of internationally trained health workers to Australia is trending up towards pre-pandemic levels. This should help our public health system speed up care this year while we wait for more graduates to enter the system.

The Victorian Government’s new priority primary care centres will also reduce pressure on emergency departments this year, but the VHA continues its calls for the Federal Government to contribute more to Victoria’s recovery efforts.

‘We want the Commonwealth Government to contribute more funding to hospitals and to make out-of-hospital care, including GP care, more accessible,’ Mr Legaspi said.

‘This should include more recognition and funding for Victoria’s 81 community health services, which already provide multidisciplinary care to hundreds of thousands of Victorians.’

The VHA welcomes the Commonwealth Government’s acknowledgement that the Medicare system needs to be urgently reviewed.

‘Opening up Medicare to a broader range of health professionals offers a huge opportunity to leverage community health, utilise all available healthcare workers to the best of their abilities, and improve health outcomes for the community.’