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Additional pressures are being felt in public hospitals throughout Australia due to ‘aged care clogging’, where almost 20,000 hospital patients are waiting to be discharged into aged care services.

Around 10 per cent of those who cannot access aged care services have been waiting for 35 days, which the Australian Medical Association (AMA) estimates could cost the healthcare system between $316.7 and $847.6 million annually.

What is an ‘Exit Block’?

An ‘exit block’ is a term that is used by medical professionals when a patient is fit for discharge, but has no safe place to go. This  typically occurs when older people are waiting for residential aged care services or domiciliary support, but the lack of access has a knock-on effect on discharge and subsequently results in fewer beds available for inpatient services.

The number has been steadily increasing since 2011-12 – it’s now 7,000 higher than it was in 2011-12. It’s a growing concern that is being vocalized by many as it directly impacts the safety of hospital operations.

Should a solution be identified for the safer transition of patients, the AMA suspects that it could save the sector an estimated $811.6 million to $2.17 billion per year.

Public hospitals cannot afford to keep operating with this level of exit block. Our public hospitals already have limited capacity and are struggling.

The AMA is calling for a new hospital agreement, with 50–50 funding between the Commonwealth and States and Territories, removal of the arbitrary 6.5% cap on funding growth, and the reintroduction of funding for performance improvement.

Professor Steve RobsonAMA President