Doctors in Western Australia demand to know when the WA government will make 50 new emergency workers available, saying it is long overdue and not even approaching what is needed.
- The WA government spends $ 1.9 billion on public hospitals
- That includes $ 100 million for emergency department upgrades
- However, some doctors say it is not enough to solve the state’s health problems
“At least 50” full-time equivalent emergency personnel have been pledged as part of a $ 100 million commitment to emergency departments (EDs).
It falls within a major spending of $ 1.9 billion for health, to be apparent from the September 2021/22 state budget.
Dr. Peter Allely of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine said that while more funding was welcome, it may have been too little, too late given how many EDs there were across the state.
“I suppose it is going to make up a very small number in each department, and unfortunately it will not have a big impact,” said Dr. Allely.
“We need them yesterday.”
Dr. Allely also wanted to know how the staff would be distributed in the hospitals.
WA’s health minister Roger Cook could not give a date for when the new staff at the emergency room – which included doctors, nurses and allied health workers – would start.
“Well, it’s part of the budget process, so we’re moving on with that recruitment process now,” he said.
“It may vary between EDs, but there will definitely be funding this fiscal year to get this staff on track.”
There was also money in the plan for new psychiatric emergency centers in Rockingham and Armadale, plus additional staff to monitor waiting areas at Perth Children’s Emergency Department.
Hospital staff stress levels ‘terrible’
Dr. Allely said the demand for emergency departments in recent years had taken a heavy toll on staff.
“Many of my colleagues and employees just report burnout and exhaustion.
“There are a lot of people who are cutting back on their hours, there are a lot of people who are looking for alternative employment who absolutely love emergency medicine and work in the emergency departments, but are just gradually being destroyed by the toxic work environment.
“We are unable to provide the care we want for our patients due to issues beyond our control.”
On Sunday, the government announced it would fund 100 new doctors and nearly 500 new nurses to staff 332 extra beds, most of which were expected to be available in March, with about half of those beds previously announced.
Dr. Allely said several beds were too late.
He also said it would take months to recruit new hospital staff due to COVID outbreaks and travel restrictions both in Australia and abroad.
The load on WA’s public hospital system has been in the spotlight for several months, with the ambulance rising to a record high of 5,200 hours in June.
The WA government said COVID-19 had put “unprecedented” demand on the state’s public health system, but Dr. Allely said demand had “grown very predictably over the last 15 to 20 years.”
“If you had sat down in 2017 and predicted where the number of emergency rooms would be in 2021, we are pretty much right in the money,” he said.
“We know it’s rising two to four percent every year.”
New RPH emergency room
As part of the money for emergency departments, Cook said $ 3.6 million would allow for the planning of a new ED at the Royal Perth Hospital (RPH).
“We’ll be looking for a new place, I think,” Cook said.
“The current positioning of ED at the moment is really just too limited.”
Cook said the government should continue to invest in RPH because it was an older hospital, but again gave no timeline for the redevelopment.
He said the government was in discussions with senior hospital staff about what the specific needs are.
“Dr. Allely said the plans to fix RPH were at long last but ‘fantastic’.
WA Health data showed that 99 percent of triage 1 (resuscitation) patients at RPH were seen within the recommended time in June, but the numbers were not as good for other categories.
About two-thirds of triage 2 (emergency) patients were seen within the recommended time that month, while about 16 percent of triage 3 (urgent) patients were seen within the ideal 30 minutes.
Last year, ABC revealed that the state government was toying with the idea of demolishing RPH and replacing it with a new facility, a project estimated to cost $ 2 billion.
A government spokesman said given that the money allocated was for planning, it could not say with certainty what the future of RPH would look like.