A health system in need of urgent intensive care
To say we need action on health is an understatement of titanic proportions.
Adelaide’s broken and battered hospital system collapsed to a new low in late March – a record 118 people waiting for a bed in emergency departments across the city, some for more than 24 hours.
We had a regional hospital, Balaklava, left without a doctor for two days of the Easter long weekend, 60 children either waiting to be treated or waiting for a bed at the Women’s and Children’s ED, a damning report detailing 168 cases of ramping at the WCH in a single year and a parliamentary committee being told last week that two of four baby deaths linked to a lack of heart surgery services could potentially have been preventable.
Only recently we heard of a case where a seven-year-old girl’s appendix had ruptured after she was forced to wait more than eight hours for surgery at the WCH, leaving the child in agony.
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WCH Alliance convener Professor Warren Jones was reported as saying it was one of the worst cases of “neglect of duty of care” he had seen in his 50-year career.
He told InDaily that on one recent occasion the WCH was at “220 per cent capacity and ambulances were diverted to other hospitals”. “This is unacceptable,” he said. “It is dangerous to patients and distressing for staff. It cannot be allowed to continue’’.
Chronic ramping, overcapacity, overstressed nurses burning out on double shifts, systemic fatigue creating unsafe hospital environments, constant violence and aggression against health care professionals and a woefully under-resourced mental health system in crisis and unable to cope with demand; South Australia’s overall health prognosis is the stuff of nightmares, a very sick and sorry state of affairs.
“The health system is buckling under unprecedented strain. If and when the system does collapse the impact will be vast and the impact on the community will be devastating,’’ said ANMF (SA Branch) Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.
“Health has reached a tipping point. The State Government must act now to create a system which values, retains and attracts more staff, not one that crushes their spirit and drives them away.
“Ensuring there is a strong and sustainable workforce capacity is critical in light of the significant workforce challenges anticipated in the coming years. It is expected that 50% of nurses and midwives will leave the workforce in the next 10 years, with a peak in retirements in 2025,’’ Ms Dabars said.
“Many of these staff are leaders and specialists in their fields, which will put enormous strain on the South Australian health system given the significant loss of skills and knowledge.
“Australia-wide this projected shortfall will be approximately 85,000 nurses/midwives by 2025, and 123,000 nurses/midwives by 2030. These statistics are even more imminent for rural and remote areas which are already experiencing significant workforce shortages.
“Failure to take action now will in the very near future result in a system simply unable to meet the demands of the community. Lives inevitably will be lost.’’