Sunday, March 07, 2021

Patients waiting seven hours before they even see a doctor
Queensland paramedics are being kept off the road for hours each day as they wait with patients to be seen in hospital emergency wards

Patients are waiting up to seven hours in an ambulance or hospital corridor before being moved to a bed, according to a union figure, amid startling warnings of significant pressure on the state’s healthcare system.

The Sunday-Mail can reveal that not only have some of the southeast’s largest emergency departments seen increased demand in recent weeks, but regions like Townsville and Rockhampton have also felt the pressure.

United Workers Union national ambulance co-ordinator Fiona Scalon claimed that since the beginning of the year, it wasn’t uncommon for QAS to lose 500 hours a day because officers were stuck on a ramp with patients.

She said paramedics usually do half a dozen jobs per shift but this had reduced to one or two.

“The significant pressure on the system is felt mostly in the southeast corner but there are pockets across the state,” she said.

“We have members reporting to us that they’re waiting six to seven hours at a time on a ramp waiting for their patients to be transferred to care.

“There is a potential for a patient to deteriorate in that environment.”

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said hospitals were recording increased demand because many people were choosing to go to an ED instead of a GP.

“Everyone will be seen but we want to remind people that we must see our most critical patients first,” she said.

“In January 2021, there were 212,784 ED presentations, 31,954 more than January 2020 (180,830).

“More than a third of all ED presentations are ailments or injuries that could be treated by a GP or pharmacist.

“During a peak in demand with many ambulances arriving at the same time, our staff will always attend to the sickest patients first.”

Data from October to December last year revealed all 4,234 Category 1 patients were seen within two minutes of arriving, while 77 per cent of all cases were seen within clinically recommended times.

On average, 34 per cent of people attending a Queensland public hospital ED weren’t transferred off-stretcher within 30 minutes in January.

At the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital - 41 per cent of people weren’t transferred within that time frame, while at Redcliffe Hospital it was 46 per cent, and 49 per cent at Logan Hospital.

It was recently revealed Queenslanders needing life-threatening medical help were waiting more than 18 minutes for an ambulance – missing the Code 1 target of 16-and-a-half minutes which hasn’t been met since 2014-15.

A QAS spokesperson said it wasn’t uncommon for demand to be higher at this time of the year due to seasonal and heat-related illness. “There have been some peaks in the past week in line with expected seasonal surges,” they said. “Despite the peaks in demand, we’ve still been able to respond to our most critical patients within our optimum time frames.”

LNP health spokeswoman Ros Bates claimed ambulance ramping was back to pre-COVID crisis levels.

Ms Scalon said when the union’s members were spending the majority of their shifts waiting at a hospital, they’re spending their time constantly having to observe their patient.

“They’re not getting their breaks,” she said. “They’re not able to go until the patient can be transferred to the hospital.


AMA says WA's health system is heading towards crisis point

WA's healthcare system is world class according to the state's health minister, yet critics claim it is heading towards crisis point as ambulance ramping hits all-time highs.

When Roger Cook became Health Minister just over four years ago, one of his immediate priorities was getting a handle on the sector. "When we came into government, you were seeing double digit growth in the health services year after year, anywhere between eight and 12 per cent," he said.

Soon after entering office, Mr Cook ordered the Sustainable Health Review and labelled its 2019 report, which outlined eight enduring strategies and 30 recommendations, a "blueprint for change".

Health remains the largest consumer of WA's annual expenditure, with the $9.6 billion committed towards the sector making up almost a third of the 2020-21 state budget.

But under the McGowan Government, growth in spending has reduced significantly, to around one to two per cent year on year.

"The Sustainable Health Review is a long-term program," Mr Cook said. "It's about rebalancing our system, putting more emphasis on prevention, making sure that we have an outward, integrated and innovative health system.

"This is not going to be a change which will happen overnight. "It's about changing culture — it's about changing the way we deliver our healthcare and it's really about the future of healthcare in Western Australia."

Mental health system at crisis point, says AMA
The report from the Sustainable Health Review has been almost universally welcomed.

The Australian Medical Association's WA president Andrew Miller said progress, however, was lacking. "We're going backwards, we're not going forwards as far as getting to a sustainable health system," Dr Miller said.

"Now, they may have slowed down the rate at which it's deteriorating in some areas, but overall, those people on the front line tell me that we're reaching crisis mode in mental health, in emergency care provision, and it's not getting better."

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In fact, Dr Miller went as far as stating the WA Government was failing to provide a safe public health system.

"I think that they have good intention, I think they're good people, I think they work very hard," he said of the State Government.

"I think they've delivered on border control, which is the thing that the doctors called for initially, and so they have kept the virus out of the community— and for that they should be rewarded.

"But they had other things to do, including [the provision of] a safe state health system, and as far as the metro is concerned, as far as the regional is concerned, they've failed to deliver."

Despite WA remaining relatively COVID-free, hospitals have never been busier.

More than 900,000 people attended an Emergency Department in WA last financial year — 12 per cent more than five years ago.

In December alone, EDs saw 250 more people every day than the previous month.

The pressure of all those patients is perhaps most visible outside hospitals — in the queues of ramped ambulances often waiting to transfer their patients.

"The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the current Health Minister, when he was in opposition, was very animated about the issue of access block to emergency care, and described it as a disgrace at the time," Dr Miller said of Mr Cook. "Unfortunately, it's at more than double those levels now.

"And in February of 2021, despite a week of lockdown and then further restrictions, the all-time record for waiting outside emergency departments was exceeded."

Mr Cook admitted the waiting time for ambulances was a problem but said the McGowan government had a plan.

"Emergency departments are challenged in relation to being overwhelmed by an increase in the number of patients but also in terms of the complexity and acuity of those patients, particularly in the mental health area," he said.

"We need to look at how we respond to doing that and one of the ways that we are seeking to respond is by developing more mental health beds … we're developing an extra 300 beds across our healthcare system, 100 of those are in mental health."


North Stradbroke Island tent ban is complete and utter nonsense

The North Stradbroke Island tent ban is another example of Queensland state bureaucracy using COVID to impose draconian rules, and should be reversed immediately, writes Peter Gleeson.

The ban on tent sites at North Stradbroke Island is so crazy and stupid that it defies logic and should be reversed immediately.

In fact, if that’s the sort of shortsighted decision-making to be made under plans to give control of the island to a Native Title corporation, all bets should be off the table.

For Queenslanders, get ready for more of this COVID-related madness as bureaucrats and opportunists use it as an excuse to impose draconian rules. The excuse that tent sites have been banned at Easter to protect people from COVID-19 is as ridiculous as it is vacuous. So people in tents are more susceptible to the coronavirus than those in caravans?

Authorities say the decision to ban tent sites on North Stradbroke Island was to protect people from COVID-19.
Authorities say the decision to ban tent sites on North Stradbroke Island was to protect people from COVID-19.
Just bulldust. There’s a movement in the Queensland state bureaucracy – a cottage industry even – for decisions and policy to be moulded and shaped around the COVID-19 narrative. If it doesn’t fit their agenda, they will introduce COVID-19 safety protocols as the excuse, or even worse, shape public policy and blame it on COVID-19.

They’re the self-appointed fun police with the specific aim of not wasting a pandemic, shall we? Gold Coaster Donna Burrows wrote to 4BC Drive host Scott Emerson last week to outline her concerns.

She said the Burrows family had been going to Amity Point on North Stradbroke Island since 2001, with brothers and sisters and their families enjoying Easter and Christmas together.

“Those young children in 2001 are now all grown up and some of them still join us on the (tent) sites,’’ she said.

“We even bury a time capsule each year with our New Year’s hopes and dreams and it’s a real tradition.

“The families are together. We watch the sunsets together, watch the dolphins together and it is honestly my favourite place in the world.’’

A week ago, Ms Burrows found out that their Easter tent holiday had been banned, with only caravans, box trailers and trailers accepted. As if the virus only gravitates towards tents.

“I can’t begin to tell you how devastated we are’’ she said. “They say it is to keep the tourists safe and the indigenous and local community safe. Yet there’s no difference between a designated tent site and a designated camper trailer. Maybe they want to put up eco tents.’’

Alternative accommodation for the Burrows family will set them back $2500 for the eight days and that is beyond their means. Many other families have complained, but to no avail.

The local chamber of commerce says the decision by Minjerribah Camping to ban tent sites was “very disappointing’’.

Local businesses – who rely on tourists at Easter - are fuming. At a time when businesses that rely on tourism need all the help it can get, this is a ham-fisted and extraordinary own goal.

The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, who loves Straddy, needs to have a quiet word to those wielding this insane abuse of power and tell them to pull their heads in. And if the government does decide to bequeath the island to the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corp, heaven help the rest of us mere mortals.

If Queensland, as the slogan says is good to go, North Stradbroke Island has just put a big red stop sign on its Easter holidays. It’s complete and utter nonsense.




1 comment:

Paul said...

Given the steady collapse of the once complementary Private Health system, these stories are unsurprising.

I once waited 8 hours at Victoria's Eye & Ear Hospital, in what I would call a Moroccan bazaar rather than a waiting room. Full of turds and turbans.