Saturday, September 22, 2007

Following the Money - Media and Healthcare

A woman recently did a little bit of late night research into where the money for our private hospitals comes from. When you read anything in the press we all know that it presents and entirely biased view as nothing can exist in vacuum, but to what extent does what we are reading about the current health crisis and the push for private health care have more to do with making the rich richer in this country? Have a read of her post that I happened across:

So I was snooping around. 60 Minutes is owned by ninemsn, a joint 50/50 venue of Microsoft and PBL Media. Also owned by PBL Media is the Nine Network, and the Nine Network's news service assists in production of 60 minutes. PBL Media's parent companies are PBL and CVC. CVC owns 6 Australian companies, two of which are in the health sector - Affinity Health (Hospitals) and DCA (Medical Services) as well as controls the majority share (75%) in PBL Media. CVC is very dodgy. Very! But anyway thats not what caught my eye. Affinity was bought out by Ramsay Healthcare, the largest private hospital group in Australia. Out of idle curiosity I went to see who ran Ramsay and found their board of directors. 3 of the 8 Directors on Ramsay's board of directors are involved with Prime Television Limited to the extent they are also on Prime Television's board of directors. One's the fucking chairman, another's the deputy chairman and the third's a director.Prime Television has a joint venue with.... NINE NETWORK where Nine would provide programming and marketing. It seems to me that the board running Ramsay Healthcare would carry some influence with Prime Tv - and thus Channel Nine and other Australian news programs. Check out the other directors. They're on industry, investment, media and telecommunications board committees, one's even on a Pharmaceutical company. The Becker Group is a massive tv and film company. I'm seeing Big Money everywhere here. Billions. AND they're the men running the largest private hospital group in Australia. Guess whose interests they'll have at heart?

So the private health sector is predominantly controlled by the same people who financially control the media representation of that sector and people who have a vested interest in the perpetuation of an unequal, classist health care system in this country. Look at this in terms of just one aspect of the private health care services. Maternity care. Within the last 4 years of reading the print media here in Perth and occasionally nation media publications, it has been apparent that the pervading opinion is that our public health system is in crisis. But whose opinion is this? And is it really representative of the opinion of the people who utilise the public health system, or is it a manufactured belief due to the media pressure placed on the public system in an uncloaked attempt to promote the private health care providers and their services? Is what we read in our media really about a system struggling, or is it an advertisement for a user pays system? There have been countless articles and medical editorials printed in The West Australian that I have noticed in the last four years that have done nothing to dispel the common belief that public maternity services are dangerous, under-funded, inadequate and would be detrimental to most women opting to be a public patient in a maternity care setting in this state. But is that the truth? How do we measure maternity care? Is it the lack of intervention, or is the prevalence of intervention in a normal, physiological, biological function of the human female? Or is it the availability of intervention? Is it the aesthetics of the setting? Is it the maternal recollection and satisfaction with the experience that we use as a measure? Regardless, if you are to read the print media you would think that women who have to use or choose to use the public maternity services here are taking a great risk, not only for themselves but for their babies. But is this reflected in the Perinatal Statisitics? No. It’s not. Ahh, but surely high risk, high dependency mother’s choose private obstetric care and therefore the private maternity care providers statistics for perinatal outcome are skewed, and the more intervention that was both available and used in a woman’s birth could only cause to reflect that it must have been necessary and they were bloody lucky they chose (the argument of choice is another one I will refer you on for) that model of care, for heaven forbid if they had been a public patient, they may not have had access to a particular intervention. But did they really need it? Or was it all part of the “service”? Here is the research that debunks that flawed theory: Private Patients Get More Birth Interventions (2000). The fulltext of the research can be seen here: Obstetric Interventions Between Public and Private Patients (2000). Read the reports in the news media, and read that our health care system is in crisis, and then watch as people flock to the private care providers in droves. But wait, the men and women with the ultimate control of what we read in that same news media, are also the men and women who stand to gain the most significantly financially. So, does that mean we are not reading what is reality. Is the media weighting a bias between the public and private health care debate? You bet your bottom dollar they are. They undoubtedly set the agenda for what we read. “Media will serve the interests of whoever owns and controls them- whether this be private individuals interested in profit or governments interested in political control” (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler, 2005). Well, there you have it. But wait, even in Ramsay’s own published literature it states the same:

The Ramsay Way : · We are caring, progressive, enjoy our work and use a positive spirit to succeed · We take pride in our achievements and actively seek new ways of doing things better · We value integrity, credibility and respect for the individual · We build constructive relationships to achieve positive outcomes for all · We believe that success comes through recognizing and encouraging the value of people and teams

· We aim to grow our business while maintaining sustainable levels of profitability, providing a basis for stakeholder loyalty

Oh wait, you’re kidding? Profitability? These are women and babies we are talking about here, not stocks and bonds. Surely they aren’t making a profit on bringing our children into the world! HA, oh to be so naive. Every intervention performed on a birthing woman is remunerated by Medicare, and then topped up by private health insurers where a woman births as a private patient. So the private health service provider is running a business, even it if happens to be the business of birth. The propaganda spreads of how desperate our public maternity services are only serve to reinforce the belief that private maternity cover is not only the responsible choice, but also the “safer” choice. People like safe. I don’t blame them. I just have a very different idea of what safe really is. I also like to question what I am reading, and who determines that I should read it. Who decides that we should read such damning reports on the public system? Oh, they would be the people who have control over the private sector and stand to have the most to gain out of a mass exodus of birthing women from using public services, to utilising the “safer” private option… um yeah right. So read your paper, have your morning cup of tea. But remember, you are not reading what you choose to read, you are reading what someone else intends you to read. Be mindful of the media homogenisation that advertises the shortcomings of public obstetric care to covertly to line the pockets of private health bigwigs.


kelli said...

where did you get this from? I wouldn't mind sending it on to one of my tutors.


I am Brooke... said...

from here :

Lisa said...

What a deep and insightful follow through to the information I posted :) I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog post and your train of thought!

sheelnagig said...

Hooray for independent thought and questioning everything!

Bel said...

Brilliance! xx