Queensland’s Health Minister has called on the federal government to help free up hospital beds, as the state’s leading medical association warns the public heath system is at “crisis point”.
- AMA Queensland says the state’s hospital system is buckling under the number of patients
- Queensland’s Health Minister is calling on the Commonwealth to help free up beds
- Yvette D’Ath says federal aged care and disability packages, regional GP shortages putting pressure on the system
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said almost 600 hospital beds could be freed up across the state “if the Commonwealth was to step in today”, by providing more aged care and disability packages.
Ms D’Ath’s comments came after the Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) warned the state’s public hospitals were struggling to cope with clogged emergency departments, too few beds, and burnt-out staff.
Dr Kim Hansen, AMAQ member and spokesperson for the Australian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM), said a surge in patients this year had buckled the system.
“Most hospitals are seeing record numbers and they just don’t have the staff or beds to cope,” Dr Hansen said.
“The system was already at full capacity and now it’s swamped.”
AMAQ president Professor Chris Perry said people waiting to get home care or disability packages or into aged care were taking up beds that could be used for other patients – and it was a problem across the state.
“The bed shortage is everywhere – metropolitan and regional Queensland,” Dr Perry said.
“Clearly, we have far too few hospital beds to cater for the state’s booming population,” he said.
‘Massive pressure’ on system
Health Minister Yvette Ms D’Ath said the Commonwealth was solely responsible for aged, disability and home care packages, and she urged the federal government to step in.
“[That’s] one thing we can do — and do very quickly — to alleviate massive pressure on our health system,” she said.
Ms D’Ath said the current model of healthcare funding was not working and she had put the issues on the agenda for the health ministers’ meeting this Friday.
“I want this conversation to be happening at a federal level, not just around aged care and disability, but the whole model of care and funding so we can look at what are we going to do in the next five, 10, 20 years for our health system,” she said.
“The Commonwealth does have a very important part to play when it comes to pressure on our health systems and … it’s not simply a case of providing Medicare benefits and bulk-billing — it’s looking at where doctors can be placed around the country.”
Ms D’Ath said Queensland was most decentralised state in the nation and needed help getting GPs into the state’s regional areas.
“We have a shortage of GPs in the regions, we have a shortage of bulk-billing, and if people can’t get in to see a GP, and they’re not looking after their health, their health becomes chronic and that’s when they end up needing a hospital bed,” she said.
“That means they need to be able to sustain their practices, and we need the Commonwealth to be looking at these issues.”
The ABC has contacted federal Health Minister Greg Hunt for comment.
Health system ‘on life support’
Queensland Opposition Leader David Crisafulli said the minister’s calls for federal help was “an extraordinary admission of failure”‘.
“There has been a history of blame and during the last fortnight the state government has pointed the finger at COVID, [former LNP premier] Campbell Newman and Canberra,” he said.
Mr Crisafulli said the Queensland government needed to change the way healthcare was delivered.
He said solutions included real-time data on available beds needed to be accessible to patients and health professionals, providing better resourcing for triaging in emergency departments and investing in more beds “instead of fudging the figures by counting chairs in the hospital bed tally”.
Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates said Queensland Health “has had a cardiac arrest and is on life support”.
“It has taken two health ministers under Annastacia Palaszczuk to break our health system — we’ve had denial after denial,” Ms Bates said.