Medical malapparition claims have dropped by almost half over the past year to $1.6 billion from $2.6bn, according to figures from the Department of Health and Ageing.
The department’s figures were released as it prepares to release its new figures on the state’s malpractice bill.
The figures, which are based on data collected between June 1 and December 31 this year, reveal the total number of cases in 2016-17, which is up 4.3 per cent on the previous year.
It also shows the number of claims that were referred to the Department for Health and Human Services, which pays for medical malpractice, have fallen from 2,715 in 2016 to 1,936 in 2017.
Dr Daniel Mather, chief executive of the Australian Medical Association, said he was not surprised by the decline in malpractice claims, which fell by around 10 per cent to 2,634 in the six months to December 31.
“The data shows that there is a very large number of people who are going to have a lot of issues with their medical malappointments and they may well be in a situation where they need to be referred to other medical practitioners,” he said.
“It’s not an industry-wide trend.
The trend has been downward, but it’s still there.”
In fact, the number who needed to be in hospital for medical expenses fell by 8 per cent, to 4,737, to take the total for 2016-2017 to more than 6.6 million.
The number of doctors who needed hospital care fell by just under 4 per cent as well, to 1.2 million, while the number referred to hospital services fell by 4 per to 1 million.
Mather said that was the result of the number and severity of malpractice issues increasing since the introduction of new legislation.
“There are a lot more cases and a lot less people in hospital,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“That’s not to say there aren’t people who need hospital treatment, but what it does do is it’s a big increase in the number needing hospital care, and that’s what’s driving up the costs of treatment.”
Dr Paul Lonergan, the former chief medical officer of Queensland, has been critical of the state government’s malappointment reforms.
He said the legislation did not go far enough to address the issue.
“These changes in malapparentia laws were not in line with the evidence that was put forward at the time,” he wrote in a letter to the ABC.
“This new legislation is in the interests of reducing the cost of hospital care for all Queenslanders and to ensure that patients get the appropriate treatment they need.”
Dr Lonergon said the bill was too generous and the government needed to do more to support people who had a medical malcontent.
“There is a large gap between the standard of care and the cost per claim,” he added.
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