ER DEBATE: The issue of ramping at Rockhampton Base Hospital's Emergency Department has reared its head again. (FILE PHOTO)
ER DEBATE: The issue of ramping at Rockhampton Base Hospital's Emergency Department has reared its head again. (FILE PHOTO)

Hospital ramping issue reflares after patients left waiting

ROCKHAMPTON Hospital’s Emergency Room ramping problem has been brought into sharp focus after patients reported having to spend hours waiting in ambulances outside the Rockhampton Hospital this week.

The practice of ramping patients in ambulances when there weren’t enough beds available in the hospital’s ER has been covered extensively by The Morning Bulletin in previous years.

Due to the impact of COVID-19 on reporting within the health system, there are no recent ramping statistics being published providing a clearer picture of the problem.

When the inquiries were made into the issue this week, Rockhampton Hospital executive director Kerrie-Anne Frakes responded saying Rockhampton Hospital Emergency Department staff did an incredible job, treating usually about 145 patients every day.

“The nature of emergencies is they are never planned, and therefore there are peaks and troughs of demand,” Ms Frakes said.

“Multiple ambulances can arrive at the same time, leading to surges in demand.

Rockhampton Base Hospital's Emergency Department
Rockhampton Base Hospital's Emergency Department

“Monday was an extremely busy day in the ED, with 163 patients; followed by 154 on

Tuesday.”

Ms Frakes said the hospital’s teams did a great job of prioritising those who required the most urgent care to ensure everyone got the best possible outcome.

“All patients, whether they arrive by ambulance or in person, are triaged according to their clinical needs,” she said.

When asked about the issue on Thursday, Queensland’s Health Minister Steven Miles couldn’t speak specifically on whether Rockhampton Hospital had a ramping problem, but he defended the efforts of the hospital’s staff.

“They are faced with population growth, an aged population, a decline in the availability of bulk billed GP services, a decline in the number of people with private health insurance and able to access other facilities,” Mr Miles said.

READ MORE:

>> Capricornia’s escalating cost to visit a doctor

>> Rockhampton Hospital sees increase in ramping

>> Long wait for ambulance blamed on Rocky hospital ‘ramping’

Labor's Minister for Health Steven Miles toured Rockhampton Hospital with Labor's candidates for Rockhampton, Barry O'Rourke and Keppel, Brittany Lauga on Thursday.
Labor's Minister for Health Steven Miles toured Rockhampton Hospital with Labor's candidates for Rockhampton, Barry O'Rourke and Keppel, Brittany Lauga on Thursday.

“That is driving a very large growth in demand for our emergency departments.

“It dipped off briefly during the pandemic but is now very much back to business as usual.”

He said that’s why his government continued to invest in more health services, greater budgets, more nurses, doctors, midwives, health professionals and a range of clinical staff.

“Over the next term we’ve committed to another 5,800 nurses and midwives,” he said.

“They are the very people who will deliver those extra services and make sure that we will see those people in our emergency departments quicker.”

According to the Minister, median wait times across the state’s emergency departments were around 15 minutes.

“They do the best that they can but there are always times where there is a larger demand and that leads to delays,” he said.

“Our staff are very good at prioritising and categorising patients as they arrive and seeing them as quickly as they can.

“Sometimes if people have to wait, it’s because they are focusing their time and efforts on people that need to be seen faster.”

Possible link between ramping, bulk billing and tourism

Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said she had been in discussions with CQHHS about the issue and it was still unclear the underlying reasons why Rockhampton Hospital’s Emergency Room was being pushed to its limit.

ELECTION PLEDGE: Labor's Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Steven Miles was joined by Labor's candidates for Rockhampton, Barry O'Rourke and Keppel, Brittany Lauga to promise $31m towards the upgrade and expansion of Rockhampton Hospital.
ELECTION PLEDGE: Labor's Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Steven Miles was joined by Labor's candidates for Rockhampton, Barry O'Rourke and Keppel, Brittany Lauga to promise $31m towards the upgrade and expansion of Rockhampton Hospital.

Given the massive influx of tourists to the region due to international travel restrictions, she believed that it could be having a role in driving ER presentations.

She believed another theory touched on by Mr Miles – the lack of bulk billing doctors – was a significant factor.

With many in the community experiencing financial hardship and unable to afford to pay to see a doctor due to the coronavirus pandemic, going to see a doctor for free at an ER was a last resort.

“There are literally only a handful of doctors in this region who bulk bill for anyone, regardless of their situation,” Ms Lauga said.

“That means that there’s queues of people (in the ER) who could be seen (by local GPs) with non-emergency issues.”

The issue of Medicare and bulk-billing rates was a federal issue for Capricornia MP Michelle Landry to respond to.

“The Member for Keppel seems to blame everyone else for her own government’s mistakes,” Ms Landry said.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said a lack of bulk-billing doctors wasn’t to blame for the length of time people were having to wait at Rockhampton Hospital’s ER.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said a lack of bulk-billing doctors wasn’t to blame for the length of time people were having to wait at Rockhampton Hospital’s ER.

“We have seen it already with her funding backflip for Great Keppel Island. If she lost her homework, she would blame it on the neighbour’s dog, but it’s classic form for her to publicly express uninformed theories and throw around baseless allegations in the midst of an election.

“The bulk billing rate in Capricornia was 77 per cent, meaning on average more than seven out of 10 visits to the GP were provided with no out-of-pocket cost.”

Ms Landry said her government was delivering record funding for hospitals, medicines and Medicare.

“Federal funding for public hospital services under the Liberal and Nationals Government has increased from $13.3 billion in 2012–13, to more than $29 billion in 2024–25,” she said.

“Individual distribution of funding to individual hospitals is a matter that should be raised with Health Minister Steven Miles.

“It should be easy for the Member for Keppel to do that given he has been electioneering in Rockhampton for the past couple of days.”

ELECTION PLEDGE: Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Steven Miles and Labor candidates for Keppel Brittany Lauga and Rockhampton Barry O'Rourke promised $5.5 million to build a brand new and expanded North Rockhampton Ambulance Station if re-elected on Friday morning.
ELECTION PLEDGE: Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Steven Miles and Labor candidates for Keppel Brittany Lauga and Rockhampton Barry O'Rourke promised $5.5 million to build a brand new and expanded North Rockhampton Ambulance Station if re-elected on Friday morning.

She said Labor had an abysmal record when it came to health.

“We are seeing patient wait times blowing out, ambulance ramping is skyrocketing, and code yellows are becoming the norm,” she said.

“The Member for Keppel would rather her own government waste millions on renaming hospitals and on health IT blowouts than actually fixing the problem.

“The Queensland Government is in charge of the care under Queensland Health, it’s that simple.”



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