“Frustrated” Queensland doctors have developed their own plan to fix a hospital system they say is “stretched to breaking point”, as the state prepares for more COVID-19 cases when border restrictions relax.
Questions are being raised about capacity to handle surges in demand brought on by the reopening of borders to COVID-19 hotspots and the impending cyclone season.
“Our public hospital system is stretched to breaking point and our staff are worn out,” the Australian Medical Association Queensland ‘Ramping Roundtable’ chair Kim Hansen said.
“There are not enough beds and there are not enough staff. It is as simple as that.”
The roundtable has released a “five-point action plan” it says will improve patient flow and address bed blockages in public hospitals.
Among the demands are 1500 additional beds, keeping hospitals operating at below 90 per cent capacity to allow for surges, and supporting alternative ways for patients to enter hospitals instead of through emergency departments.
Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles says work is already under way to address the issues raised.
“A key part of our COVID planning has been ensuring that we have additional capacity right through the system, from ED all the way to ICU,” he said on Thursday.
With the state’s borders opening on Monday, Mr Miles said he was confident that while coming weeks would be a challenge for health workers, the state was ensuring they have the resources they need.
He said having a large portion of the state’s population already vaccinated will help address capacity concerns.
“I don’t know of anywhere else in the world that has been able to wait until they’ve double vaccinated 80 per cent of their population before the virus starts to arrive in large numbers,” Mr Miles said.
The AMA says extending hospital hours in other departments alongside EDs was crucial to relieving surge pressure.
“Our EDs operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but the rest of the hospital doesn’t,” Dr Hansen said.
“Hospitals are not 9-5. Any test, treatment or procedure that can happen in a hospital on a Wednesday morning needs to also happen on a Sunday night.”
Co-operation is needed at all levels of government to fix the issues, AMA Queensland President Professor Chris Perry said.
“The politics must be put aside and finger pointing and shifting of blame between state and federal funding must stop. We have to get on with the job now,” he said.
“We can free up 685 beds immediately by moving patients who are currently in those beds waiting for NDIS and aged care placements into more appropriate care.”