Australia Elective surgeries cancelled for two weeks for some patients by Australia's largest public hospital provider
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Australia's largest public hospital provider has cancelled elective surgeries for some patients for a fortnight to deal with bed shortages.
It comes as Queensland's medical leaders said the system was at breaking point with a lack of beds and staff, and inadequate health funding dating back more than 30 years.
A memo from Brisbane's Metro North Hospital and Health Service (MNHHS) chief executive said hospitals have been experiencing "increased demand" over the past weeks.
Elective surgery will be cancelled for category 2 and 3 patients, except for "long wait" category 2 patients who've been waiting more than 90 days.
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Operations will go ahead for the most urgent category 1 patients.
A MNHHS spokesperson said in a statement it had made temporary and proactive changes to maintain its surgical program during the winter months.
"These decisions have been unanimously supported by our clinical executive team," the statement said.
"Over the next two weeks, Metro North will continue surgeries for those with most clinical need, including Category 1, long-wait Category 2 and 3 patients still to be treated, as well as those who don't need an overnight bed.
"Non-urgent elective surgeries are being rescheduled during this period."
The spokesperson said the two-week period would allow further strategies to be implemented to address capacity issues and anticipated increased demand during winter for flu season.
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"Additional action is being taken to increase capacity where it is most needed across Metro North Health," the statement said.
"[This] may include additional surgery hours, extending medical imaging services, bringing in additional staff, and creating additional bed space to improve timeliness of patient access to services.
"Metro North Health will also look at inter-hospital transfers where appropriate."
Unprecedented demand has hospitals in 'crisis mode'
Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) president Chris Perry said hospitals across the state were being plagued by a shortage of beds and clogged emergency departments.
"Our hospitals are being knocked down and rebuilt without enough beds," he said.
"The beds are not normal beds — they're a unit of medical activity and those bed cost between $500,000 and $2 million a year.
"The pointy end — it's on view and you can't hide from it — is bed block.
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"You can't get into the hospitals because they're far too small and that's seen the accident emergencies."
Emergency physician Kim Hansen, from St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane, said emergency departments were facing unprecedented demand this year, with some patients left waiting more than 24 hours.
"That's put us into crisis mode," she said.
"It's happening across Queensland, interstate and overseas.
"The number of patients presenting every day is higher than before.
"The waits are getting longer and longer – both for an ambulance, for a bed inside the emergency department, and then a bed inside the hospital.
"We know that patients who spend more than eight hours in the emergency department have a higher mortality rate.
"We know patients are dying because of this crisis."
Dr Hansen said hospital beds needed to be used more efficiently and hospitals should be kept at 90 per cent capacity to ensure enough space to admit patients to an emergency department.
The emergency specialists, surgeons and doctors from across the state held a roundtable today to develop a road map out of the emergency department ramping crisis.
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New health data reflects pressures
New performance health data for Queensland found there were 622,609 emergency department presentations between January and March 2021 – an increase of 14 per cent from the same period last year.
There were 36,781 elective surgeries, which was an 8.8 per cent increase.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said the data reflected the significant demand across the state's health system.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has been a contributor, but we are continuing to see increases in patient numbers unrelated to COVID as well," Ms D'Ath said.
"Issues around bed capacity and our aging population need to be offset by innovative and robust models of care, including Hospital in the Home and the Satellite Hospitals programs, and further Commonwealth support for aged care and disability care.
"We're doing everything we can to alleviate the pressure on our hospitals, but the Commonwealth finding beds for the almost 600 aged care and disability care patients currently in our hospitals would be a welcome development."
Logan, Townsville, Redcliffe and QEII hospitals recorded the longest median wait times for elective surgery.
Queensland Health also launched anfor people to check and compare health data for public and private hospitals and residential aged care facilities.
Ms D'Ath said it was disappointing that 84 per cent of private residential aged care facilities opted out of submitting their data.
"We have invited all 494 private aged care facilities across Queensland to put that data up — 84 per cent – 384 of them – have chosen to opt out and not provide that data," Ms D'Ath said.
"Off the back of the royal commission into aged care, I really would have thought that aged care providers would see the benefit in giving the public confidence of the service they provide because they need that confidence right now.
"When there's transparency and accountability around this sort of data being reported it leads to better outcomes and quality care."
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