A health system in need of urgent intensive care
To say we need action for health is an understatement of titanic proportions.
Adelaide’s broken and battered hospital system collapsed to a new low on both May 3 and May 18 – a record 139 people waiting for a bed in emergency departments across the city, some for more than 24 hours. On May 3 there were eight mental health patients who had been waiting in the RAH emergency department for a bed for more than 60 hours.
The shocking numbers come at a time when SA Health is reportedly considering axing nurses and doctors at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital as part of an internal savings plan.
“Never before have we witnessed such appalling numbers of people waiting for a hospital bed. Never before have we witnessed such strain on our hospital system,’’ said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.
“This nonsense must end now. The Marshall Government simply must invest in more health care staff and more resources or it risks plunging the entire state into an unprecedented health crisis. Lives are at stake.’’
The ANMF has been inundated with alarming reports by nursing and midwifery staff of excessive use of extra shifts, double shifts, overtime, and related missed/delayed care.
We have urged SA Health chief executive Dr McGowan to act on these issues and we have also offered solutions.
“We have again called on the Marshall Government to implement in full and as a matter of urgency Professor John Mendoza’s 10-point plan to address the chronic lack of appropriate mental health care in this state and the disastrous impact it is having on the hospital system, as well as the 10-point plan outlined by ourselves and other mental health advocates in a joint letter,’’ Ms Dabars said.
Already in 2021, we have seen 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 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’’.
Ramping at record levels, hospitals constantly running at overcapacity, overstressed nurses burning out on double shifts, systemic fatigue creating unsafe hospital environments, daily 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,’’ Ms Dabars said.
“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.’’
Adj Assoc Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM calling on SA Health and the Government for urgent action on overcrowding and fatigue.