Every public hospital in southeast Queensland has run out of empty beds but the state’s chief health officer says the health system is not in crisis.
Beds in all ten hospitals in the region – with the Queensland Children’s Hospital the only one unaffected – were full on Tuesday night.
About 250 of those places are being taken up by elderly people ready to be discharged to aged care facilities, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says they have nowhere to go.
“There are another 400 people who are NDIS eligible who are also ready for discharge,” she told state parliament on Wednesday.
Ms Palaszczuk blamed the crowding on the federal government.
“We take responsibility for caring for our people in our hospitals and people will always get the care they need,” she added.
“But 650 beds are being used for responsibilities that rest with the federal government.”
The massive influx of admissions has forced the state government to cough up $ 3 million in emergency funds to free up 50 private hospital beds to cope with the strain.
However the beds may not be available for a few days.
Liberal National Party MPs laughed when Health Minister Steven Miles told parliament the throng of patients presenting to emergency departments was unseasonal and unprecedented.
He is urging Queenslanders to refrain from going to an emergency department unless they are in genuine need of emergency treatment.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young on Wednesday warned patients in emergency departments faced lengthy waits, and that only the most urgent elective surgeries would be considered.
However she denied the system was in crisis.
“It’s not a crisis because we’re responding to it,” she told ABC radio.
“Anyone who needs care today in our public health system will get it.”
President of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Simon Judkins said patients’ lives were at risk if there wasn’t an urgent overhaul of the system.
“I think it is a crisis because we know that staff are suffering, we know that patients are suffering, we know there’s adverse outcomes,” he told ABC radio.
“These conditions have a direct impact on patient morbidity and mortality.
“Now if that’s not a crisis I don’t know what is.”
Dr Young said officials are trying to determine why there has been an eight to ten per cent spike in admissions over the last few weeks.
The government says a bad summer flu season and heat-related illnesses are part of the reason.
It will review its current plans for the future of the hospital system and whether it would meet the demand, she said.
Australian Associated Press