Hospital - An Unhealthy Business


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1997, 57 Minutes

The story of an institution trying to reconcile its mission to serve the public with the economic reality of limited finance.

Hospital – An Unhealthy Business investigates a public hospital’s struggle for economic survival. It weaves the story of administrators at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne and their attempts to bring in a balanced budget, together with the stories of three patients whose care might be jeopardised by the pressure to cut spending and increase patient throughput.

The need to increase throughput and the subsequent pressures on the staff comes to a head in winter, with four weeks to go until the end of the financial year. The 400 bed hospital attempts to do the impossible – to treat around 900 patients every week.

However, the treatment and care of patients is a complex issue and often unpredictable. For instance, 80-year-old Mrs Biggs has been admitted suffering from a stroke and it is uncertain how long it will take for her condition to stabilise; Robyn Watson has an aggressive cancer and the price of her treatment is mounting, costing a great deal more than the hospital receives back from the government; and Mick Nash, a patient admitted with chest pain of increasing severity, waits in pre-op while a debate ensues in management about rationing the very procedure Mick is going to receive.

As management continues to try and cut spending, the treatment of patients like Mrs Biggs, Robyn and Mick is increasingly viewed by the accounting department as not viable...but nursing staff, health workers and doctors do not agree. Staff at St Vincent’s push themselves to the limit to minimise the effects of budget rationing on their patients. Debates rage, tension mounts as the budget cutbacks start to take their toll. Will the staff efforts be in vain?

The crisis facing St Vincent’s, like public hospitals all over Australia, is that it is being forced to prioritise services that are the most cost-effective. With this kind of financial philosophy at work, will health care itself become the main casualty?

A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with December Films Pty Ltd. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.


Writer/Director: Catherine Marciniak

Year: 1997

Running Time: 57 Minutes

Classification: G

Curriculum Links: Health Services Management; Business & Work; Business Studies (Business Management, Industry & Enterprise); Industrial Relations; Innovative Business Practice; Organisational Management; Work; Economics; SOSE/HSIE.

SKU 199500100
Brand Film Australia

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