Hospitals at crisis point

Hospital emergency departments in the South East are under immense pressure. 224627_12

By Jamie Salter and Cameron Lucadou-Wells

La Trobe candidates are calling for action to address immense pressure on hospital emergency departments in the South East.

Casey Hospital, Dandenong Hospital and Monash Medical Centre in Clayton rank among the lowest performing hospitals in Melbourne, according to the Victorian Agency of Health Information.

Between January and March, there were a staggering 46 patients staying longer than 24 hours in Casey Hospital ED, 43 at Dandenong Hospital and 56 at Monash Medical Centre in Clayton.

This compares with just 10 between the three hospitals a year earlier.

La Trobe Liberal candidate Jason Wood said commitments made prior to the last election would ease the pressure on hospitals.

“The big news from last election was a $40 million funding commitment for Casey Hospital’s Paediatric Emergency Centre and work for that starts in August,“ he said.

“All emergency departments are completely overwhelmed and nees to be upgraded but having this emergency department will reduce the demand by half.

“Work is already underway for Pakenham’s My Place which will put all youth services in one place.“

A Medicare Urgent Care Clinic in La Trobe is part of a $135 million nationwide commitment from the Labor government if elected.

La Trobe Labor candidate Abi Kumar said the Medicare Urgent Care Clinics will take the pressure off hospital emergency departments, freeing up nurses and doctors for life threatening presentations.

“They will treat sprains and broken bones, cuts, wounds, insect bites, minor ear and eye problems and minor burns,” Mr Kumar said.

He said out of pocket GP costs in La Trobe were up by 49 per cent and that the clinics will be fully bulk-billed.

“Meaning families won’t be out-of-pocket for having a loved one attended to, just like if they’d gone to a public hospital,” Mr Kumar said.

“The clinic will also be open seven days a week from at least 8 am to 10 pm – the time when the majority of non-life-threatening injuries occur.”

Emergency patients triaged as category 2 and in need of urgent care are recommended to be treated within 10 minutes.

Only 20 per cent of Casey Hospital category 2 emergency patients were seen within the benchmark, 34 per cent at Dandenong Hospital and 17.5 per cent at Monash Medial Centre.

Across these categories, the three hospitals rank among the lowest performing in Melbourne.

As recently as Saturday 14 May, Monash Medical Centre’s emergency department announced it was diverting patients due to “currently experiencing high demand and long wait times for both adults and children”.

The social-media post by Monash Health stated: “The most seriously sick or injured will always be cared for first.

“The Department of Health and Ambulance Victoria are assisting to divert less urgent care where possible.

“All our Emergency Departments, including Monash Medical Centre, remain open for urgent medical emergencies.”

But the “national emergency” in hospitals is not as a result of Covid-19, according to the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.

President Clare Skinner said systemic problems like emergency department overcrowding and ambulance ramping had been “building for many years”.

Covid-19 only “exposed and worsened” the problems.

“Members all over Australia report to the College that these are the worst conditions they’ve experienced in their careers.”

She said parts of the health system were “seeing almost double the amount of people they were designed for”.

Dr Skinner said the State Budget’s focus on up to 7000 new health workers and $12 billion on health care was welcome, but more was needed to retain burnt out staff.