Budget must address five key areas

8 Jun 2022

Doctor in despair


Transcript: AMA Queensland President, Dr Maria Boulton, Press Conference, Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Subject: AMA Queensland Pre-Budget Submission

MARIA BOULTON:    Thanks for coming. So AMA Queensland is today calling for the urgent injection of $2.34 billion from the state budget to go into implementing our five action priority points to help our healthcare system.

QUESTION:    What sort of priority areas are we talking about here? I mean, we know the health system’s in absolute disrepair at the moment and the problems have become entrenched. So what are the areas where we need the cash?

MARIA BOULTON: The State Government is responsible for the administration of our state hospitals. And what we're calling for is funding of five action priority areas. These include funding the Ramping Roundtable Action Plan, starting with 1,500 new hospital beds across Queensland. We're also looking for more funding into palliative care, more funding to fill the gaps in mental healthcare, and also more funding to make medical workplaces safer for our medical workforce. And lastly, we're looking for funding to fix the digital technologies that our healthcare workers use every day to help them at work.

QUESTION:    How confident are you that the budget will help address things like this?

MARIA BOULTON: The Queensland healthcare system is at crisis point. We have no option but to fund these initiatives. We know that there are people waiting in ambulances to be welcomed into the emergency department. We know that there are people waiting in emergency departments for a bit. And we also know that there are people waiting on elective surgery lists. There is no option but to fund this going into the future. If we don't increase the funding into our healthcare system, what will happen is that Queenslanders will not be able to enjoy the quality healthcare system that they enjoy right now.

QUESTION:    What are doctors telling you, from right across the state? These areas we've known from our own doctors that chat to us that they're problem areas, mental health in particular. And ramping is huge, but where and how have you sort of come to these sort of points? I mean, is this where doctors and nurses are telling you the problem is?

MARIA BOULTON: AMA Queensland has a wide membership. So our members work in emergency departments, in hospitals, in general practice, and in private practice. And what they've been telling us for months, and what we've been telling the government, is that we are at crisis point. We are very worried about our patients accessing emergency services. We are very worried about patients accessing specialised mental health services, for example, and something needs to be done. For far too long, the healthcare system has relied on the goodwill and altruism of doctors and healthcare workers to keep going, but enough is enough.

We knew that our hospital system was stretched before COVID. COVID has further stretched this. And it also has increased the risk of the incidence of mental health issues, which means that more patients are presenting with those issues, which means that the backlog is getting worse.

QUESTION:    So how intertwined are these issues? You mentioned mental health, if that's not being addressed, we're seeing more people in the emergency department. The stress in the emergency department results in an unsafe working environment for people working there. How intertwined are all these five points?

MARIA BOULTON: Yeah. These five points are intertwined. And what we see, the reality is that general practice cannot survive without a hospital system that's functioning well. Hospitals cannot survive if general practice isn't well funded either. So we need both systems to be able to work together collaboratively, to be well funded, so that patients have access to all those services in a timely manner.

QUESTION:    This is a problem that's sort of gripped the nation really. We’ve got ambulance ramping in Victoria, South Australia, as well as issues right across the board with hospital capacity after COVID. Where does Queensland sit on that scale? Are we as bad or worse than other states? And should we lead the way in fixing it?

MARIA BOULTON:  What we're seeing with the ramping issues in Queensland, is that they're getting worse. Only the other day, I was talking to an emergency physician who said that the ambulances outside her hospitals were ramped for five hours. So that's someone sitting in an ambulance stretcher, a patient who needs medical care, sitting in an ambulance stretcher for five hours. When you speak with paramedics, they don't know what else to do. They don't want to be parked in an ambulance by a hospital. They want to be out there helping people and something needs to be done.

QUESTION:    I suppose, if the State Government comes back with "Okay, we have enough money for X. We can't do everything, but we can do some things". Of the five, what would you say is probably most pressing priority?

MARIA BOULTON: AMA Queensland would like to see all five priority areas funded. This is not news to the Queensland Government. They know that these areas need funding. We would like to see them all funded. The other thing that we would like to see is for the Federal Government to have a long, hard look at general practice funding and resourcing as well. We know that without general practices, hospitals don't function. And we know that without hospitals, general practices don't function well.

QUESTION:    How long have you been calling for these sort of improvements, Dr Boulton? This is not the first time you're asking... maybe the first time you're asking for $2.34 billion, but not the first time you're asking for these sorts of improvements, I take it?

MARIA BOULTON: We knew our hospitals were stretched before COVID. The COVID pandemic has been here for two-and-a-half years. This was a problem before then. And what the COVID pandemic has done is that it has made the situation acutely worse.

QUESTION:    How much of a black eye on the state is it at the moment where the State Government can... We love to preach about 2032 and the Olympics and everything's coming, but it seems kind of hollow when you've got a health crisis happening that really should be addressed.

MARIA BOULTON: Completely agree. I think patients would rather be able to have access to quality healthcare, and to have money put into their healthcare. We know that without our health, we are nothing. The other thing is that we all have family members that have been affected by this. I just implore the Queensland government to listen to the community.

QUESTION:   You must be a bit enthused in the federal election and Annastacia Palusczuk said she was happy for Albanese and the Labor Government to win, because they're pushing for a 50/50 split. Is this fantasy or does this give you some hope that there could be one day a 50/50 split with the federals, which could facilitate what you're asking for?

MARIA BOULTON: I'm a GP and what we've heard throughout the state is that patients don’t care where the funding comes from, if it’s state or federal, they just want good healthcare.

8 June 2022

CONTACT: media@amaq.com.au 0419 735 641


Published: 8 Jun 2022