As the importance of conducting a health insurance comparison becomes greater for Australian households, Ramsay Health Group has announced a $244-million net profit for the year ending in June, a 23% increase from the previous year’s $198.4-million profit. The company gave the go-ahead to $103-million worth of expansion projects during the 2010-2011 period and said it would be looking to continue its expansion portfolio. A key area for expansion is to be its worldwide acquisitions and penetrating global markets. Ramsay Health was confident in the potential of the current economic climate, as the ageing population would need more healthcare in the coming years and the public sector was under more pressure to get a boost from private sector healthcare, as budget constraints become tighter and welfare no longer reaches as far as it used to.
Ramsay project profits were expected to increase by a further 10 to 12% for the 2012 to 2013 period, riding on the momentum generated during the 2010 to 2011 period. The company currently operates hospitals in Australia, Britain, Indonesia and France, deriving the bulk of its profit from the local market which comprised 75% of its earnings in the last financial year although its progress in the United Kingdom has been given a boost by the NHS making use of its hospitals for public welfare. Ramsay Health has also taken to heart the fact that so many Australians are valuing health care as a priority even though so many households are under financial pressure, with the population reaching its highest insurance levels in the last 24-years. Figures from the June quarter reflected a 3.4% increase in memberships for the year and Ramsay Health believes there is even more scope for growth looking to the year ahead.
With more Australians taking on health insurance the medical profession finds itself under more pressure to see more patients and faces a shortage of primary healthcare providers, especially in rural and remote areas. Physician assistants have been given the nod of approval by Health Workforce Australia to contribute to healthcare needs in different parts of the country. Currently PAs are in high demand in sectors such as non-government, private and community centres, remote general practice, defence and Aboriginal health services. Health Workforce Australia has also said that rural doctors are lobbying in favour of PAs to be integrated deeper into the system.
Physician assistants are a relatively new addition to the healthcare system, with the first class having graduated in 2011. There are currently 30 graduates from the first class, with the next cohort to be graduating soon. Some of criticisms about allowing physician assistants into the health workforce have centred on competition between junior and graduating doctors, but data based on trials that were conducted overseas have shown that they can only benefit the system. Supporters of physician assistants have stressed the need for them to assume some of the workload and to adopt a supplementary role for doctors and other medical staff.
All states and territories except New South Wales have backed Pas, with New South Wales voting in favour of generalist practitioners like hospitalists. It also appears that those who have worked with Pas support their role in the Australian healthcare system, with many doctors commenting that they only stand to improve the productivity of other health professionals while taking some of the workload and pressure of the shoulders of busy physicians. The report has also introduced to the concept of introducing PAs to more responsibility and thus offering the public a more affordable model of healthcare.