Friday 9 September 2011

Bligh Government can't spin this one away

Cairns Base Hospital emergency department staff call for more beds and resources

Damon Guppy
Friday, September 9, 2011
© The Cairns Post

Enough is enough: Cairns Base Hospital emergency department staff rally
 to draw attention to their cause – a shortage of beds
and resources in the department. Picture: MIKE WATT

Cairns Base Hospital's emergency department staff say they are so under-resourced they often struggle to find beds for critically ill or injured patients.

About 40 union members yesterday voted to issue Premier Anna Bligh with a demand to acknowledge the pressure they are under and to provide more money for resources.

Union spokesman Dr Sandy Donald said lack of beds for emergency patients was placing excess strain on staff, causing a gridlock of ambulances and holding up paramedics.

"The ED is broken," he said. "Bed-block has always been a big problem but now it’s a daily problem. "The ED staff have always tried to keep one bed free for a sudden emergency, such as a cardiac arrest, but in the past week there have been times almost every day when not even one bed was available."

He said Cairns Base Hospital had the worst record of "bed-block" – delays in moving patients from the ED to ward beds – in Queensland. But Cairns and Hinterland Health Service District Julie Hartley-Jones said the department was fully-funded and staffed.

She said the ED last year had treated 47,000 patients – 2000 more than in 2009 – and had reduced the waiting time from 42 minutes to 38 minutes. "The district received a 10 per cent budget increase at the last budget and we’ve also had an increase of 244 clinical staff across the Cairns and Hinterland Health Services District," she said.

Health Minister Geoff Wilson said the district was funded at the same rate as every other Queensland centre. "The decisions about funding for beds at the hospital are made locally by the health service CEO. The facts are, we have just built a massive extension on the emergency department and the hospital is under a $454 million redevelopment delivering a swag of extra beds," he said.

But ED staffer Dr James Reeves said even the new 50-bed department was unable to cope with the pressure. "On any given day, 20 or 30 of the beds are taken up by in-patients. That takes away 50 per cent of our beds for the emergency department," he said.

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