MQ Health is a key partner with the innovative Access program, designed for patients with private health cover facing skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs. In mid 2019 orthopaedic surgeons joined the growing number of surgical options offered through the program.

Launched in 2017, the Access Program aims to address the skyrocketing costs for patients with private health care who are under-insured or require procedures that come with a significant gap fee.

“Basically, the Access program addresses the creeping out-of-pocket costs for those who can’t afford it,” explained Professor Anand Deva, who established the program through the Integrated Specialist Healthcare Education and Research Foundation (ISHCERF). “We know that this can be up to 10 per cent of patients with private health insurance.

“The Access Program also selects those patients who require life-changing procedures and procedures not easy to do this through the public system – either because the wait in the public system is too long, or the condition will not be treated in the public system.”

Macquarie University Hospital partnered with ISHCERF and the Access Program in 2017 as the first participating private hospital. Having now completed dozens of surgeries in two key areas – weight loss and breast reduction surgery – the Access program has announced its expansion to include orthopaedic surgery.

Included in the surgical offerings will be shoulder and elbow replacement surgery that can serve patients with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rotator cuff tears or past dislocations.

Two participating surgeons from MQ Health have joined and will perform shoulder and elbow replacements at a reduced rate. Professor Desmond Bokor and Associate Professor Sumit Raniga say that they are pleased to be offering much-needed procedures through the Access Program.

“Our collaboration makes complex and sophisticated joint replacement surgery more readily available to patients – many of whom are self-funded retirees and who have private health insurance, but because of personal circumstances find the increasing gap in doctors’ fees very difficult or prohibitive to afford,” explained Professor Bokor.

Associate Professor Raniga, a subspecialist orthopaedic shoulder and elbow surgeon scientist who completed a fellowship at the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology at the Bern University Hospital in Switzerland, says that there is significant demand for shoulder and elbow replacement surgery.

“The types of joint replacement surgery that we will be offering are some of the most commonly needed – in particular, amongst the ageing population,” he said. “They are well proven to make a significant impact on quality of life and so it makes sense for orthopaedics at MQ Health to join the Access Program.”

Patients must meet certain financial and health criteria to ensure that those in need of the surgery and financial receive the treatment.

As a healthcare innovator and a not-for-profit academic health sciences centre, MQ Health is well-placed to participate in the Access Program.

The most significant contributor, however, to these reduced or minimally-priced procedures, is the specialist doctors who agree to reduce or waive their usual fee. To date, around 30 doctors have joined the Access Program, each doing one or two cases per month at reduced rates.