Hospital wait outrage leads to more beds, questions over ‘culture of secrecy’.

By Richard Baines and James Dunlevie

A report commissioned in the aftermath of a scandal involving a 95-year-old woman lying on a Tasmanian hospital floor waiting to be treated has been released, with the Health Minister immediately announcing more beds to solve the long-running health crisis.

The outrage which followed the led to a personal apology from the Tasmanian Health Minster Michael Ferguson, who commissioned a report into operations at Hobart and Launceston’s hospitals.

The report’s findings, delivered in August 2016, were released today after a Right To Information request.

In response to the report, Mr Ferguson today said 27 hospital beds in the state’s southern area would open to “reduce patient bed flow issues … [and] support patients in emergency departments not having to wait anywhere near as long”.

Mr Ferguson denied the announcement was a “knee-jerk” reaction.

“This is something that’s been worked through very carefully between the Tasmanian Health Service executive and our valuable staff, medical, nursing and allied health,” he said.


Mr Ferguson said the Government would provide $2.6 million to open the beds by winter.

‘Lack of transparency’ over near misses

The commissioned “Review Of Access To Emergency Care” report released today found systemic problems with both the RHH and Launceston General Hospital.

It noted it was “important to consider the issues with access to emergency care as the end result of system wide issues rather than simply an ED [emergency department] problem”.

The report also found staff morale had been “damaged” by adverse media attention which had highlighted “several distressing patient events”, but overall Tasmanian Health System staff were “proud of the care they deliver”.

It said “cultural, data and governance issues exist which are inhibiting clinician-led clinical redesign” and “staff had reported lack of visibility or transparency of data, particularly in the area of adverse clinical events and near misses”.

“In both hospitals there was no ability for ED physicians to have admission rights to the inpatient wards. Attempts had been made previously but there was opposition from inpatient teams. The reason for this reluctance remains unclear.”

It said a “lack of organisational charts at both hospitals is creating some structural barriers to clinical redesign to facilitate improved patient flow”.

‘Crisis on a daily basis’, nurses’ union says

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation secretary Neroli Ellis welcomed the announcement of funding for new beds but said , which has been undergoing construction work, would continue to rise.

“The ED at the Royal has been in crisis on a daily basis,” she said.

“Last January there were six people waiting 24 hours, this January there were 64 people waiting for 24 hours. There’s a direct correlation to the re-development.”

Ms Ellis called for the emergency department facilities at RHH to be expanded.

“The ED department needs to grow and we hope there’s money for that in the next budget,” she said.

Labor health spokeswoman Rebecca White accused Mr Ferguson of withholding the report, saying he had only done so to avoid pressure when Parliament resumes next week.

“For six months Minister Ferguson has known about the issues in our emergency departments and he’s done nothing about it until today.

“Doesn’t it smack of rank hypocrisy and politicisation of the system when we have Parliament going back,” Ms White said.

Greens health spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff said she was concerned by what she described as a “culture of secrecy”.

“It’s not a failure of emergency department, it’s a failure of leadership,” she said.

“It’s a serious report, it talks about a culture of secrecy and data hoarding in the management of the health service, it affects the hospitals very, very seriously.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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