I arrived at Sydney airport early this morning and transferred straight to my hotel, the Sir Stamford at Circular Quay. The hotel, where I’ve also stayed on previous visits, offers an ideal location that is just a short walk from the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanical Gardens. After a quick shower, I ventured out along the harbor, around the Opera House and then deep into the gardens. It was all I needed to clear my head after the 17-hour flight from Seattle. The walk and exposure to early morning sunlight is also part of my routine to overcome jet lag. Looking at my schedule for the upcoming week, I had better get adjusted to local time fast.
One of the things I love about Australia is the amazing flora and fauna. Even here in the city the cacophony of wild parrots and a wide variety of other exotic birds quickly reminds you that “you’re not in Kansas anymore”. That was especially evident today when I looked up at some trees in the park and noticed what I first thought were unusual black seed pods hanging from the branches. On closer inspection I soon realized that the “seed pods” were moving. The trees were dense with a gathering of very large fruit bats. The only other time I’ve seen wild bats of this size was on vacation in Bali many years ago. Now here they were in the middle of a city park just a few hundred yards from my hotel. I guess I’ll think twice before walking in the botanical gardens at night.
As I turned back toward the Sydney Harbor promenade I quickly found myself amidst a popular outdoor market. It was there I saw a sign on the sidewalk that quickly reminded me why I had come back to Australia for the fourth time in as many years. I’m here to talk about health. And although the theme for my multi-city business tour revolves around technologies to assist hospitals and government agencies with clinical care and care management coordination, I have no doubt that I’ll be getting plenty of questions about healthcare reform. And no, I don’t mean what we’ve just been through in America. I mean healthcare reform that is happening here in Australia. You see, the government has just completed a lengthy planning process that will result in the most significant shift in healthcare for Australians since the inception of Medicare (their Medicare, not ours). Here’s what is being proposed by the National Health and Hospitals Network for Australia’s Future:
- Create a single national network of hospitals, instead of eight separate systems
- Be funded nationally, with the Australian Government shouldering the majority of the funding burden, which will mean more money is available to meet rising health costs
- Make sure local doctors and nurses with local expertise are making the important decisions for local hospitals
I’ll share more in the days ahead as I have an opportunity to interact with clinicians, hospital executives and government officials in Australia. They will no doubt also be seeking my thoughts on American health reform. In fact, all around the developed world governments are looking for new ways to improve access to care, increase care quality, and control the escalating costs of care associated with aging populations and a higher incidence of chronic disease. While Americans may think that other countries have already figured this out, let me assure you it is a debate that is “up to bat” everywhere.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft