Our guest speaker Mike Roberts started his career in health in the mid-70s and has pursued a varied career in many facets of health care since that time.

Key points of Mike’s talk:

  • Current expenditure on health in Australia is $140 billion per year, about the same as other Western nations. Highest expenditure is on cardiovascular.
  • Health care is funded by a mix of federal and state government, private insurance and individual contributions.
  • We face a major challenge . . . Ageing population = rising health and aged care needs.

Challenges to fixing the health system:

  • Health services are the most complex organisations devised by humans,
  • Diversity of functions, e.g. a mix of up to 50 specialist clinical services (growing),
  • The system is messy,
  • Governments have an idealised view of the system – a patient’s view can be different,
  • People navigating the system experience different time frames, priorities & queues.

So why isn’t the system “fixed” yet?

  • Changing complex systems is like “trying to make a tram do a U-turn
  • New service capacity and efficiencies are quickly absorbed by growing demand,
  • The approach to understanding and solving problems hasn’t been systemic.
  • Health is the same as the rest of our community: Even when we know what’s coming we are not good at planning for the future.

Things that give optimism:

  • Despite frustrations many improvement activities are showing results,
  • High quality people everywhere,
  • Made huge improvements in terms of quality and safety,
  • Growing interest in using design approaches to solving healthcare,
  • Increasing focus on team and leader coaching,
  • Great results in some services, e.g., integrated acute medicine, aged and community care,
  • New organisational models promise hope,
  • Disruptive innovations,
  • New treatments, ways of providing care, technology, home support.

Still to do:

  • Indigenous health gap,
  • Rural health gap,
  • Alcohol and drugs,
  • Sensible planning cycles,
  • Hospital builds and upgrades,
  • Implement Aged Care and Community Care reforms,
  • Disability care.

Don thanked Mike for a most interesting and informative talk.
Reporter (Acting): Ron Dickson