The 2022 public health report by the Australian Medical Association revealed Queensland’s public hospitals are performing well overall, but more than a third of Category 3 emergency department patients are not seen within the recommended 30 minutes.
In Chermside, The Prince Charles Hospital has recorded a median waiting time of 39 minutes for Category 3 or potentially life-threatening cases, where a patient should be seen by a treating doctor or nurse within half an hour of arriving.
The hospital has a total median wait time of 27 minutes for all categories as of the last quarter of 2021. The numbers are considered out of range of the latest national performance, but not in the poorest performing group of hospitals.
The Prince Charles Hospital, whose emergency department is the second biggest in the state, also recorded a total of 2418 minutes or 40.3 hours of patient off-stretcher time based on records from August 2021 to January 2022.
The target is to get most patients off stretchers and into EDs within 30 minutes but Queensland Audit Office noted that it has not been met across the state for the past seven years.
Patient off stretcher time (POST) is the amount of time it takes to transfer patients off ambulance stretchers, with a completed clinical handover, to EDs. For POST, Queensland’s target is to transfer 90 per cent of patients within 30 minutes.
Based on data from Queensland Health Emergency Department Information System, TPCH transfers 55 per cent of its patients off stretchers within 30 minutes.
Recommendations to Improve Services
Prof Chris Perry, President of AMA Queensland recommended short, medium and long-term actions to address the hospital bed block that is leading to emergency department ramping.
“We need 1,500 more beds, extended hours for non-ED hospital functions like pharmacy, and different ways for patients to access hospital care other than through the ED,” said Prof Perry.
He said hospitals in Queensland must run at less than 90 per cent occupancy so there is surge capacity, and Hospital and Health Services must conduct a detailed analysis of patient flow within the hospital and report against that analysis.
“This can work if it is underpinned by strong effective leadership, innovation, and appropriate investment by the State and Federal Governments,” he added.
Despite efforts to improve the quality of public health care, this year’s budget papers, which was delivered on 29 March 2022, revealed there will be a $21 million cut from Queensland public hospitals next financial year.
The State Government wanted the federal government to meet it halfway with 50:50 funding for healthcare for Queenslanders in the federal budget but the LNP’s Federal Budget failed to deliver Queensland its fair share of funding.
The 2021–22 Budget provides a record $20.885 billion in operating funding, as well as a $1.35 billion capital program to continue to deliver first-class health services to Queenslanders.
A key focus of the record funding will be to continue the state’s response to the ongoing health impacts from COVID-19 and the vaccination roll-out.