Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for MENTAL HEALTH and WELLBEING, Mr ROCKLIFF
The Department of Health dashboard for June shows the number of patients seen on time in our emergency departments was the lowest ever. Just 52 per cent of all patients, barely half, were seen on time. For category 3 patients - the life threatening and urgent cases - only four in 10 were seen on time. That is far below the national standard of 75 per cent.
Doctors and nurses in emergency departments are doing their best under intense pressure but they are being let down by your Government, which continually fails to listen. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation even had to take your Government to the Industrial Commission to force you to fund safe staffing levels at the Launceston emergency department.
Will you commit to fully staffing our hospitals for patient and staff safety, and to finally developing a statewide strategy for emergency departments, as called for by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine?
Mr Speaker, I thank the member for Franklin for her question. I am acutely aware of the challenges, demands and pressures on our health system. I have travelled the state over the course of the last few months as Minister for Health, listening and ensuring that I get a good understanding of the challenges within our emergency departments, whether it be in the North West Regional Hospital, the Mersey, the LGH or the Royal Hobart Hospital. I respect enormously the work of our clinicians and health professionals in what is a very challenging environment.
It gives me the opportunity, in answering your question, also to talk about the beds coming online that we have committed to in the course of the last few weeks. Some 50 new -
Dr Woodruff - The question was about staffing.
Mr ROCKLIFF - It is important because this is also an access and flow issue, the pressures on our emergency department. The opening of Ward 6A last week is a positive step in the direction, in terms of not only reducing elective surgery waiting lists but also ensuring there are more general beds available to support access and flow through our hospital.
In Launceston, 28 beds are coming online as well, once the infrastructure improvements are made, and a further eight beds in the North West Regional Hospital as well. You were not in parliament between 2010 and 2014, Dr Woodruff, but I can assure you the pain was felt during that time when, for example, the North-West Regional Hospital closed a ward.
The Government has put on more health professionals in our health system than any previous government. We will continue to do so. We will be opening more beds when it is safe to do so, and we employ more people. We have a health recruitment task force which has met twice. I was at the first meeting listening to representatives of HACSU, ANF, AMA and others talk about sustaining a workforce, the recruitment challenge and the retention challenge.
Despite the ongoing demand challenges due to COVID-19, as part of our strategy to manage demand at our public hospitals we have again announced over 50 additional beds to open in coming months across the state. We recognise that announcing new beds is not the only solution to improving access to care in our hospitals and support staff to manage patient flow.
In addition to beds, we need to prioritise improving community care through programs such as Community Rapid Response Service and to help people get home from hospital as soon as they can through programs such as Hospital in the Home.
We are focused on delivering our state-wide access and patient flow program including, where appropriate: •
direct admission of patients to wards in hospitals without the need for patients to go through emergency departments; for example, where patients can be transferred from hospital to hospital. •
criteria-led discharge to support safe and timely discharge; for example, discharge by junior doctors and nurses in line with the consultant doctor's recommendation. •
streamline transfer of patients from emergency departments to wards in the hospital to avoid patients who have been admitted to hospital longer than they should be in our emergency departments. •
engaging with private hospital providers to deliver services to help public hospitals to meet demand. •
developing a shared culture where every staff member is aware of the role the play in every patients' journey.
The member mentioned a state-wide approach. That is exactly what we are doing. The release of the state-wide surgical four-year plan, which was clinician-led and patient-focused, is an example of that. This takes our commitment to 30 000 elective surgeries. We have listened to clinicians who for the first time can have a detailed four-year plan because of increased funding across the forward Estimates. A system-wide approach is needed to improve access in patient flow. We are working with the health staff and stakeholders to deliver that.