Gripe about Private Hospitals

My gripe is about Private Hospitals. Unfortunately I have had to have a lot of surgery in the last 10 years. When I request a private room I am always informed that “we can not guarantee a private room” I am at a loss that even with 2 months notice they can not guarantee a private room. I contacted BUPA (as I have top hospital cover) and was told the same " I can not expect a private room, it is a matter for the hospital" . As I am on a excess ($50 per night) why should I have to pay an excess, when the hospital does not provide the private room that I am charged for. There should be a discount if no private room is available,


I could be overly cynical, but private hospitals are a business. The contracts they have to provide services to health funds come with discounts that vary from fund to fund, as negotiated. My suspicion is that a) hosptialised people cannot always be depended on to go home on the appointed day as they do not recover as expected or have complications so scheduling rooms is always best effort, and b) if there is contention for a private room it would go to the patient who will deliver them the highest profit, other things being equal.

That could be so, but if the hospital can not provide a private room, I should not have to pay the same excess as for a private room. Why do Private Hospitals have non private rooms? Surely 2 months notice is enough to organize a private room.

1 Like

Because everyone is not insured, some pay from their own pocket, and cover does not always pay for private rooms. Your comment on the same daily excess being applied regardless is reasonable. However cover varies; my cover has a single excess of $250 for day surgery or $500 for an overnight or longer stay that applies for however many days it takes, capped annually, private room included but not guaranteed. That could seem high but my annual premium is far less than others as well as being highly flexible in my providers. That was my choice when comparing funds. Perhaps you should shop around?

Your comment on 2 months being enough time to schedule a room for you seems to continue discounting the variability of the “previous human bodies” undergoing medical treatment. As a trivial example I had a life threatening emergency admission some years ago and had “next up priority” for a theatre - it is almost certain someone who would have had that theatre got inconvenienced. Get the analogy?

I’m an escaped private hospital staff member. One of my areas to cover was maximising revenue.
The private room decision comes down to one of many reasons.

  1. Patient’s cover may not cover private room.
  2. Clinical reasons - infection may be more of an issue in one case compared to another.
  3. Specialist’s request re their patient.
    We had typical 32 bed wards with 10 or 11 private rooms, often 20 people would request private. So many would miss out.
    Clinical reasons trump revenue, as any infections would cost more than the additional revenue raised.
    As a rule, specialists insisting their patient get private rooms will trump other reasons. So nursing staff would need excellent reasons to tell a Dr their patient wouldn’t get one, if the Dr asked.
    Months out means nothing as it depends on the load that day & some surgeries are added up to the day before.

Thanks for that information. I will follow up with my specialist. I am frustrated with the fact that we pay a fortune in health insurance for top private hospital cover, only to find out that I am not assured of a private room. As the hospital Representative told me and I quote " You might be lucky" And a discussion with my insurer was even more frustrating. What has happened to our health system, is it all about money and not at least some consideration of patients welfare? I am starting to feel that I should just drop the insurance and go public and save enough money to go on a decent holiday once a year, which I cant afford now because of the insurance payments. Why do Private hospitals not have all private rooms, I can guess why, 4 patients in a room saves a lot of walking and going back and forth for the nurses (I am not blaming them) have these rooms close to the nurses station so that enables to cut back on nursing staff. The other reason for my concern is that last year I had to share a room with (I am a lady pensioner) 2 guys 1 had the TV on loud all the time the other was always listening to the horse races and 1 very senile old lady who kept screaming out all the time, it is the last thing I needed as I was in severe pain. I did request a change of room (as I was going to be there for about 1 week) but to no avail. I discharged myself and got the community nurse to come out everyday to help me shower etc. A bit of an inconvenience but at least it was peaceful. Sorry about the rand.

1 Like

Private rooms are often allocated to patients with the greatest needs e.g dying or health status is critical. Situations in wards can change hourly or daily. People do not always fit into forward planning. I laugh every time I see a Health Fund promising a single room.

1 Like

My recent experience was the opposite. I went private rather than go on a lengthy waiting list for an essential procedure which meant going to a private hospital. The surgeon’s fees ended up being extremely high (got less than $700 back from Medicare out of a $3000 plus surgeon’s fee) so in an effort to keep costs down I requested a shared ward for the over-night stay. When I woke from surgery I was in a private room. The hospital then billed me for the private room saying I had to pay as there were no shared rooms available. The hospital made it very clear this was non-negotiable. I hardly think it is fair that I have to pay for something I stipulated up front I did not want to buy in the first place.

Were wards available when you checked in? Did the admissions officer advise you of the possibility a ward may not be available? Would you have preferred recuperating in a hallway?

Your admission papers constitute a contract. If you stipulated in writing you did not want a private room, either the contract states you might receive and pay for a private room if no ward was available, or you should decline to pay the difference. Their “non-negotiable”, as with any business’ policy, is not necessary legal just because it is their policy. The healthcare industry portrays itself as above reproach so starts from a position of presumed authority re commercial issues. Have you sought legal advice (solicitor or fair trading) to determine your rights?

Regardless, that is a bad look for the hospital. Perhaps readers would like to know which one you have referenced so they could make informed judgements if facing self funded admission or have cover only for shared rooms.

1 Like

I made it very clear well prior to admission and also on the day of admission that I did not want a private ward. On the admission papers I stipulated a shared room. I declined to pay the extra and they threatened me with debt collectors and a blemished credit rating. There are other private hospitals available in Perth’s northern suburbs so I will not return to this one. From the level of care I got I may as well have been in a hallway.

Jreay, I would not be paying for the private room, as you clearly stated that you wanted a shared ward. Have you got copies of the admission form? I would challenge the hospital and call their bluff.
I just returned from my hospital stay. As you will note from my previous comments that I had insisted on a private room and my specialist also requested same. When I arrived they took me to a shared ward (4beds) with the shared bathroom being in the hallway. I questioned if this was temporary until I came out of surgery, I was told no as “we can only supply private rooms if one is available” I then said in that case I will be going home and get the refund of my excess (which I had to pay up front) Then a miracle happened a private room became available. In the 3 days I was in the hospital I had a walk around and found that there were at least 3 empty private rooms.The only reason I can see for this shared ward thing is that it is cheaper for the hospital , as there is only 1 bathroom and 1 room to clean and not 4. 4 patients in 1 ward is also less cost for nursing I presume

Twice there was no room available in the Private Hospital (Royal North Shore) but I got placed somewhere in the public hospital and had a room for myself but I never had to pay anything!

1 Like

Over the past 10 years I have required quite a bit of time in Hospital;
2006 - Quad by-pass and metal valve
2016 - Repair of 3 hernias
2016 - Treatment for cancer
We are currently with BUPA who took over MBF
Not once have I been refused a private room and I do prefer my privacy
Even hospital expenses for procedures and treatment, together with numerous other costs, have been dealt with and paid for by BUPA
I cannot stop people from thinking as they wish, but the above is a TRUE representation

I struck one private hospital in East Melbourne that has four bed wards with the bathroom toilets down the hall shared by all and sundry , I had booked into a private room and after a few days in a recovery ward was transferred to this four bedder after 4 hours i Discharged myself against protests and at least they sent two nurses to escort me home 200 metres away.

On admission at St George Private Hospital Kogarah any person staying overnight is forced to paya $25 standard fee, so called "fee for incidentals " this is not covered by your health fund and relates to the cost of providing you & your visitors with access to Foxtel/Austar, high speed wireless internet at the hospital & in their internet business centre. This is a fee I find really unreasonable and greedy, surely with the rents specialist pay for consultation rooms at the hospital that would be sufficient to cover this cost and should not be passed onto their patients.

I’ve worked on variou private hospitals. There are many issues in this. 1) health insurance is necessary if having elective surgery as you don’t have to wait so long.
2) some conditions it’s better to be in a big public hospital - ev. Diabetes esp Type 1.
3) the quality of private hospitals varies a lot. Not all are nice surroundings.
4) it is about money as a business however single rooms are determined by specialist deciding as they have the say. However patient care mostly overrides that. FYI g patients and infectious patients need single rooms.
5) Health funds charge a lot and mislead their members!!

Sorry that you didn’t get a private room but it is never possible to guantee any- one private room - unless in private hospital that only has single rooms- for the rest of us- yes even ones that pay private- priority is given to most clinically needed on the day- this may mean that a person who has contagious infection - i.e. Mrsa, ve, or more complicated- someone who is dying, or someone who is critically unwell would and should get a private room over money. That is the way it has to work- even booking in advance can’t change what happens on the day!

Many posters seem to have missed half the point – that insurance/hospitals are charging the same regardless whether they provide private or ward accommodation. Most reasonable people could be unhappy but would be understanding if they did not get their stated preference, but imagine checking into a hotel with a deluxe king ocean view booked but you get a double overlooking a rooftop by the lift at the same price. Why is such treatment OK from a hospital?

The flip is [sans insurance] wanting an economy plan and getting upgraded against one’s stated desire, being charged and then strong armed.

It seems most private insurance does not address room/costing anomalies and focuses on “being admitted” at a fixed daily rate.

I suppose it depends on which state you are in and which private health fund you belong to. I am in Western Australia and belong to HBF. Hospitals do say that they can’t guarantee a private room but I have always managed to have one. The $50 co-share for the first six nights used to apply with them but not any more as far as I know and if I had had to go into a shared room it wouldn’t apply. I do have a $250 excess which applies once a year to an overnight stay only. I cover this by having Gap Saver which can be used to pay this.

I still question how the hospitals decides who has a private room. As I wrote in my last email, I requested a private room repeatedly over a 2 months period. When I arrived at the hospital I was a allotted a bed in a 4 bed ward. When I questioned this I was informed that there were no private rooms available. I told the admission staff that I would not be staying then all of sudden a private room. became available (miracle) The private hospitals try to put as many patients in shared rooms as possible as that reduces their overhead costs. I my opinion if a private room can not be supplied then there should be financial compensation (eg no excess or such) to the patient as we are not getting what we have paid huge membership fees for.

1 Like