Labor calls for more beds and reduction in emergency department and surgery waiting times

Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King and Labor candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips outside Shoalhaven District Hospital.
Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King and Labor candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips outside Shoalhaven District Hospital.

MORE beds and bringing down emergency department and elective surgery waiting times at Shoalhaven District Hospital is the goal of the Shorten Labor government, according to Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King.

Ms King was in Nowra on Monday meeting with Labor candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips, and a number of local staff, doctors and paramedics who work out of Shoalhaven Hospital in a bid to find what issues the local hospital faces.

“After meeting with staff from Shoalhaven Hospital it’s clear to us there are pressing problems in this region. Staff simply do not have the resources they need to provide proper care,” Ms King said.

“It was a chance for us to hear first hand the concerns and issues of staff.

Staff are ringing some very serious alarm bells about the lack of investment at Shoalhaven Hospital and their concerns about it compromising the quality of patient care. It’s time someone listened.

Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King.

“I met with nursing staff in midwifery, I met with nursing staff from the emergency department, I met with some of the general surgeons here as well as general practitioners who are referring their patients here. I also met with some of the paramedics here who are serving this hospital.

“And they are ringing some very serious alarm bells about the lack of investment here at Shoalhaven Hospital and their concerns about it compromising the quality of patient care.”

She said she was so concerned about what she heard she would be writing to the NSW Health Minister to raise those issues directly with him.

“What staff are telling me is the presentation to the emergency department have been increasing to around 160 a day and they now believe they are not able to treat people within good clinical guidelines here within the emergency department, because of the wait times to get people into beds when they’re admitted patients,” she said.

“It’s clear the hospital is under substantial pressure and the staff are under pressure as well.

“That isn’t surprising when we’ve had Malcolm Turnbull cut $1.7 million out of this hospital from 2017 to 2020. The inadequate funding deal that the NSW Government signed with the Commonwealth has cut $1.7 million out of this hospital – and that’s 10 times that, $11.7 million, across this region in total.”

Staff simply do not have the resources they need to provide proper care.

Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King.

She said that had a real impact – “a real impact on the patients who are trying to access these services. It also has a significant impact on the staff,” she said.

“People not able to get out patients appointments, but when they do get outpatient appointments, sitting on elective surgery waiting lists for long periods of time - whether it be for cataract surgery, or orthopaedic surgery or other general surgeries that they desperately need.

“That also has a significant impact on the capacity of this hospital to open beds, to be able to see acute patients to undertake those surgeries.”

She said Bill Shorten in his budget reply said a Labor Government would reinvest $2.8 billion into the public hospital system.

“We have pledged to fully reverse Malcolm Turnbull’s 2019-2025 hospital cuts by establishing a national $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund - meaning we will deliver a record investment in the health of all Australians,” she said.

It’s clear the hospital is under substantial pressure and the staff are under pressure as well.

Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King.

As for specific commitments to Shoalhaven hospital, she said the NSW Government had not put any plans to Labor.

“I would welcome the NSW Government telling us what its plans are for Shoalhaven Hospital,” she said.

“I heard directly from frontline staff that they think they need more capacity in the emergency department but more importantly they need more beds to actually be able to put inpatients in so that they can actually manage the demand that’s increasing here at this hospital.

“If there are capital asks from the Commonwealth, then should we be in government, that’s something we will look at.”

She asked to see any master plan that may exist to improve the capacity of the hospital.

“New hospitals are very expensive but they are also very important in local communities.  I hold health forums across the country - it is very unusual at those health forums to have so many senior doctors and nurses speaking out,” she said.

“It’s time someone listened. They’ve said that they’ve raised that, some of them have raised it with state and federal members here.

“I think it’s disappointing we haven’t heard from Ann Sudmalis on this issue. I think we need to get this issue sorted fairly urgently.”

Mrs Phillips, who was born at Shoalhaven Hospital, as were her children said it was great to be able to have a round table with staff and find out what the issues are.

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