Medical transportation costs in Australia have been rising since the start of the global financial crisis, according the latest study of a new wave of medical transport services.
The cost of medical transportation in Sydney is now almost the same as it was before the global economic meltdown.
“We are in a period of rapid expansion in the number of providers in Sydney,” Professor David McBride, director of the Medical Transport Research Centre at the University of Sydney, said.
“The costs of operating a transport vehicle and maintaining the vehicle are relatively high in Sydney because the cost of building a new hospital is about $1 billion.”
The study by the Centre for Health Security and Transport Economics (CHERTE) looked at the cost and availability of all the different types of medical services available to Australian residents in the past 10 years, including hospital and emergency departments, emergency ambulance services, physiotherapy, medical imaging and rehabilitation, orthopaedic services, emergency dental services and general surgery.
The researchers found that the average cost per passenger per day had risen by 7.5 per cent from 2011 to 2015.
The average cost of a standard transport vehicle rose by almost 15 per cent between 2012 and 2015.
“In Sydney, we are spending about $600 a person per day on medical transport in 2016, which is higher than it was 10 years ago,” Professor McBride said.
Loading “The most significant change in our costs of medical travel is the increase in the average costs of driving a standard medical vehicle, which jumped by an average of 11 per cent per year from 2012 to 2015.”
Dr Matthew D’Alessandro, a consultant anaesthetist and chief executive of the Sydney Dental Clinic, said the rise in costs was a “major driver” for the closure of dentists in his region.
“Dental care is one of the most important areas for patients, and the cost to the community has been really high,” Dr D’Alonsio said.
He said dental patients were also more likely to be at high risk of infection, which contributed to the increased cost of health care.
“There are also a number of factors that are contributing to the increase, such as the introduction of new medicines in the form of the flu shot, and an increase in private health insurance,” he said.
Dr D ‘Alonsios said the increase was likely driven by the increased costs of medication, which made it more difficult for patients to access care.
Loading While the cost per person had increased by about 20 per cent, the average age of those who used medical transportation fell from 36.5 years in 2011 to 34.4 years in 2015.
Dr McBride and Professor D’Allon said the cost reduction was likely because medical transport providers were more efficient and focused on ensuring patients received the best care possible.
“As more providers move to new areas, we expect the average per person cost to increase,” Dr McBrides said.