Better management, not money, is the key to fixing Tasmania’s “broken” emergency health system, one of the state’s most senior doctors says.
Last week, a women had a miscarriage in chairs due to a shortage of beds at Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH).
Australian College for Emergency Medicine Tasmania chair Dr Brian Doyle said he spent the long weekend in the emergency department at RHH and said a few changes had made a huge difference.
“It’s not simply throwing money at a system that’s unfortunately a bit broken and needs to be better managed,” he said.
Dr Doyle said the root cause of the problem was an issue referred to as bed block, or access block.
“This is where we have sick people who have been seen and treated in the emergency department who then need to be in hospital for treatment … but there’s not a bed for them to go to so they stay in the emergency department,” he said.
“They’re taking up the beds in the emergency department that you would usually use to treat everybody else so we juggle and try to treat people in chairs and just use our common sense as best we can.”
Maximising resources helps with busy Easter weekend
Dr Doyle said simply spending more money was not the answer.
“Over the Easter weekend, I worked at the Royal Hobart Hospital and it was beautiful, it was easy, there was no access block,” he said.
“Even though it was busier, we were able to sort through things rather easily.
“There are solutions that don’t necessarily require money and extra funding, it’s making sure you maximise the existing resources that you have.
“They did cancel some elective surgery, there was no extra money put into it, so there are solutions there that don’t necessarily require money.”
But health policy analyst Martyn Goddard said a change in management practices would only help to a certain extent and a massive increase in funding was needed.
“Our demand for hospital care generally, inpatient care, not emergency, is going up around about twice the national average,” he said.
“Demand in Tasmania is accelerating so much we have undertreated and untreated so many people for so long, we’ve had so many fewer facilities and capacity for our population than any other state or territory for so long that it’s catching up with us.”
Mr Goddard said communication also needed to be examined.
“We’ve had empty beds in the wards but the people in emergency haven’t been told they’re empty,” he said.