The Queensland government has denied ambulance patients are being turned away from busy hospitals, but admits emergency department workers are “pretty much exhausted and spent”.
The Liberal National Party on Wednesday said a whistleblower had revealed an ambulance bypassing or diversions, which last occurred under the former Bligh government a decade ago, was occurring.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath denies that’s possible as ambulances are directed from a central hub, so individual emergency departments don’t have the power to turn away patients.
“So it’s not any hospital getting to make the call: ‘We’re not accepting you’ and bypassing them. That hasn’t operated for a decade,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
“It is a coordinated center that we make sure we’re sending them to the right hospital in the first place, so they don’t have to be diverted.”
There are 520 long-stay patients in public hospitals who don’t require medical care, but need either NDIS or aged care packages to be able to go home.
Another 462 patients have COVID-19 in public facilities and 49 in private facilities, she said, while 1643 health workers are off work and self-isolating.
The minister said hospitals are treating with patients who really need a GP or a primary and allied healthcare provider.
“Demand pressures have caused the public health system in Queensland to become the provider of last resort,” Ms D’Ath added.
“When you can’t afford private health insurance, when you can’t get into private specialists, when you cannot access GPs, when you cannot get an NDIS package, when you cannot get the support you need in aged care, you turn to the public health system.”
She called on the next federal government to match the state’s funding for health care.
LNP leader David Crisafulli admitted more federal funding was needed, but said the state government could take actions now.
He said improving triaging, publishing transparent data in real time and giving doctors and nurses more autonomy over decision-making would help.
“The (state) budget tells that story that less money is going to the health and hospital networks,” Mr Crisafulli told reporters.
“So clearly the government has a trust issue when it comes to trusting people at the frontline and I’ll place my faith in the doctor or the nurse or the paramedic every day of the week.”
Queensland Health acting chief operating officer David Rosengren said while emergency departments have coped, the situation was exhausting healthcare workers.
“It is very fatiguing to be a clinician working in emergency departments,” he said.
“All go home at the end of an evening shift pretty much exhausted and spent from the … commitment to ensuring that we continue to manage the demand that comes through.
“There is no question that our clinicians in our emergency departments are tired, everybody in the healthcare system is tired.”
The Queensland government has promised to release this month the emergency waiting time and ambulance ramping data for the March quarter of 2022.
Australian Associated Press