Health system on life support

22 Jun 2022

Blurred image of people in hospital waiting room


Transcript: AMA Queensland President, Dr Maria Boulton, Nine Network, Today Show with Karl Stefanovic and Allyson Langdon, Wednesday 22 June 2022

Subjects: State budget, health funding

ALLYSON LANGDON:   Well, Queensland is splashing the cash on its sick health system, announcing a record $23.6 billion for the sector in its budget. For reaction, we are joined by AMA Queensland President Dr Maria Boulton in Brisbane. Doctor, nice to see you this morning. We know the system is on life support. Do you think this money will fix the problem?

DR MARIA BOULTON:   Good morning, Ally. And you're right. The system is on life support. I was in a large emergency department on Monday and there were people ramped all through the hallways. There were 10 ambulances waiting ramped in the car park, and there was a lady who'd had a stroke who'd been waiting for 23 hours to access a bed in the hospital. So you're right. The system is on life support.

What we heard yesterday was that our call for increased hospital beds has been answered. There's going to be a huge investment to increase the beds across the state over the next six years. So we're getting more than 2,500 beds, which is great news. However, we're a little bit disappointed with the spend over the next 12 months. The budget was increased, but it's really increased by 5.6 per cent only, which is really just above inflation rate. We would've liked to have seen more just to address the urgent needs that we have now.

ALLYSON LANGDON:   Can I just go back to what you just explained in our hospitals there and just what you saw? Was that yesterday, I think you said? Is that out of the ordinary?

DR MARIA BOULTON:   No. It used to be. It used to be. And there were times before COVID that hospitals were like that, but it's getting like that more and more often. And I was speaking to a consultant there and she said that the worst time she'd ever had was two weeks ago where the ambulances were lined up outside the hospital and around the corner. So it's getting worse and worse. It's getting to the point where staff used to be placed on call just in case they needed to come in. Nowadays, whenever they're placed on call, they just assume that they're going to be working because they're going to be very busy.

ALLYSON LANGDON:   Gee, I mean, this is the problem, isn't it? And when you say that you look at that overall figure of what, $23.6 billion, and it sounds like a whole lot of money. It is spread over a decade. So are you saying you'd like to see a whole lot more of that spent up front? I know you've got about $10 billion that's going to go towards three new hospitals and expanding the number of beds across the state. But I can only assume that there's going to be no quick fix there. That'll take a while.

DR MARIA BOULTON:   Yeah, that will take a while. And it will take a while to build up the workforce to go into those new hospitals, especially, and take care of those new beds. But if you look at areas like Redcliffe, for example, their new beds won't come online until 2028. So that is sometime away. And in the short term, it would've been nice to have some of our other recommendations heeded, which was putting more hospital staff in so that we could operate hospitals seven days a week, so that we can discharge people over the weekend and have those spare beds for Mondays, which tend to be quite busy in emergency. Also more money towards looking at alternative pathways that bypass emergency. So if you have a patient who's just been seen in a hospital, who goes home, and then bounces back into the hospital, does that patient really need to go through emergency when you know what's wrong, you know who's seen them and the team of doctors is already familiar with that patient?

So yeah, we would've liked to have seen a little bit more just to solve the urgent crisis that we're going through.

ALLYSON LANGDON:   So you're saying the system could be a whole lot more efficient, but I mean, you raise the issue there of more staff. Your problem is where do you find them? No one can find nurses and doctors at the moment.

DR MARIA BOULTON:   Yeah. It's going to be a long term fix I think. We need to get together and look at some data. There is data in the Queensland state that tells us exactly how many doctors we need around the entire of the state. And we need to go back and look at numbers of medical students. Are we training enough medical students to in 10 years time become a doctor in some of those areas? And we need collaboration between the state government, the Commonwealth who determines how many medical students go into training, but also the stakeholders, the medical peak bodies that know exactly what the communities need.

ALLYSON LANGDON:   Yep. Doctor, I really appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

22 June 2022

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Published: 22 Jun 2022