Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Base Hospital - second worse in State

Days out from the State election, the Australian Medical Association of Queensland has released a damming diagnosis for Cairns Base Hospital.

It says that our local hospital is up the top of the pressure, and called for 'urgent commitments from all sides of politics' to invest in health services around the State, as they released its poor state of health.

The report identifies Queensland's major health pressure points and highlights the urgent need for a whole-of-state approach to health funding for the long-term.

The 'Poor state of health' report identified many serious short-comings for Cairns Base Hospital, which has been named the State’s second most under-pressure emergency department, with up to 20 people awaiting transfer from the emergency department at any one time.

The report said demand for health services in our region is increasing in correlation with a growing and ageing population, with emergency department attendances up by 4.5% over the last year.

However the number of patients waiting, and patient ‘long waits’ for elective surgery at Cairns Base Hospital dropped from 1,513 to 1,274 and 540 to 381 respectively.
The report acknowledges several plans for upgrades that will be completed by 2014 for an extra 168 beds, however it showed the standard of workplace facilities at Cairns Base had significantly declined over the last 4 years. Specifically, Cairns Base hospital did not provide any of the recommended residential accommodation facilities or on-duty rest room facilities.

Here's the recommendations:


  • Vital means and resources are desperately needed at Cairns Base Hospital to cope with demand prior to completion of hospital development.

  • Fast tracking of infrastructure, resources and funding at Cairns Base Hospital is required to meet current demand, and a commitment to future investment to meet the prospective health needs of the Cairns district is also required.

  • Adequate measures to reduce pressures on, and improve morale, of staff at the hospital, including enhanced support for staff.

  • Commitment to resources and funding to service the uniquely diverse needs of the Cairns district, including the areas of Indigenous health, community mental health and aged care services.

  • Implementation of strategies to recruit and retain highly skilled medical staff in Cairns.

  • Investment in e-health and telemedicine to improve health services.

  • Improvement in the standard of workplace facilities at Cairns Base Hospital, specifically the on-duty rest rooms and residential accommodation facilities.
“Many of our public hospitals are struggling and they need help now,” Dr Davis of the AMAQ says. “A number of the major regions around the State are suffering as a result of deficiencies within their public hospitals, deficiencies that ultimately lead to a further breakdown in the delivery of services for the entire community.

“In a State as decentralised as Queensland, and with an ageing and increasing population, we simply cannot allow this to continue and it is time all sides of politics urgently committed to adequately funding and resourcing our public hospitals,” he said.

However Beth Mole of the Queensland Nurses Union said "Horror stories bring make the news during an election, but we need real solutions," she said on ABC Far North this morning.

"We want solutions, rather than more criticism."

6 comments:

Syd Walker said...

I think it's important, when criticizing the public health system, to acknowledge what is good about it. I know some people have bad experiences - especially those on long waiting lists. There's doubtless plenty that can and should be done to improve our public health system.

Even so, the fact that when someone is criticially ill in this region they can get expert care from dedicated health professionals and walk away without a massive bill is something to celebrate. Thank heavens for it! And thanks to all who make it possible. Let's improve public health by all means - but not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

A few years ago the marvellous staff at Cairns Base Hospital saved my life after I'd left a visit to the doctor too long (I'd contracted Leptosporosis). I cannot adequately express my thanks and appreciation for what they did. The staff included some wonderful overseas doctors, including brilliant medics from the Indian sub-continent, who only months later were being protrayed as public enemy number 1 during the disgraceful Hanif affair.

Finally, although it's a cliche, someone should point out that we'd have more resources to deploy on healthcare if we spent less on illegal wars in foreign lands fighting popular resistance movements. So, in the absence of much competition on that front, I'll point it out myself.

Mr Cassowary said...

We don't attract the same level of specialist as Brisbane, Why? is it because of the hospital? I don't believe so, its simply if you want to live in a city, you live in a city. Come on people we all moved here or chose not to move away because of the lifestyle. The clue is in the name Cairns BASE, its a first stop, you want fancy go to the city. Sure the ALP can pump as much money as they like or build a new one as the LNP are saying they will do. But its not going to change the fact that to city folk we are at the arse end of the world, fancy surgeons don't want to come here. So lets embrace the adventure doctors and specialists that do come here, they fit in better anyway!

Tom said...

Here's my personal CBH experience: Early last year, my dear old Mum (85) had a stroke. It was a debilitating event and it very soon became apparent that she had irreversible damage resulting in her becoming a candidate for a nursing home. However, no nursing home beds were available, and dear old Mum become a "bed blocker" (one of many I was to learn). She occupied an acute bed for FIVE MONTHS - simply for lack of a nursing home bed.
During this time, the ambulances were regularly ramped outside A&E - and A&E was full because there were no beds on wards to transfer their patients to. Could the solution be as simple as more (federal) funding for nursing home beds, resulting in less (state) funding needed for hospitals? Ideas anyone?

Wendy Richardson said...

Tom - you are quite right about elderly patients inappropriately housed at the hospital as being a major cause of 'bed block'. I had the same experience in 2006 with my own father.

There are ways to deal with this right now, while we push for more aged care facilities.

For example, there is space in Babinda and Mareeba hospitals for some of these people. These facilities could provide the low care and more homely atmosphere these people need and local workers could be employed for the caring role supervised by nurses.

While this may be a little inconvenient for some relatives to visit, others may actually find it better as many aged patients come from outlying areas anyway.

We certainly need to think of all the options as we move forward in trying to solve the health crisis.

Chicken Legs said...

Wendy you seem to have forgotten that it was YOUR federal government that ignored the aged care problem for 11 years, which is why their are so many elderly patients in the hospital (or kero baths) instead of in nursing homes.

It was also YOUR federal government that slashed the amount of HECS funded doctor places, which has led to the shortage of doctors, one of the main problems for the health system throughout QLD and Australia.

How quick you are to blame the Labor state government while forgetting about how YOUR Howard government slashed and burned the money for aged care and health for 11 years.

MARY said...

Well said Chicken Legs. It was little Johnny Howard (WHO ??) and his party who cut funding for Hospitals and discouraged young hopefuls to become Doctors by the ruthless slashing of Doctor places at Uni's.
Remember, it was the Labor party who gave us FREE Hospitals in Q'ld - the envy of other States. Hospital problems are being solved rapidly and don't forget Q'ld has had huge population growth the last few years to contend with. The LNP need to hear the good stories about our Hospitals and not bury their head in the sand once again.