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AMA says hospitals are in desperate need of more beds, not chairs

30 January, 2007

The AMA (WA) says the State Government must immediately provide 100 more public hospital beds if it wants to avoid the embarrassment of patients being placed on chairs and other makeshift trolleys in emergency departments.

"A recent newspaper photo of a female patient laid out on three chairs in a major public hospital waiting hours for a ward bed would have shocked all West Australians," said Dr David Mountain, the association's emergency medicine spokesman.

"Regrettably, it's an indication of the ongoing crises in our emergency departments.

"The medical profession has repeatedly warned the Government about the situation, but it has been in constant denial.

"Perhaps now it will take those warnings seriously."

Dr Mountain said emergency departments had been under siege for the last two years with more than 400 patients each week waiting more than eight hours for a bed in Perth's two major hospitals.

"Research by WA experts shows that about 150 patients or more will die this year because of the overcrowding in emergency departments," he said.

"For those who survive it is unacceptable that when they are at their sickest and most vulnerable they are having to be managed in overcrowded and stressful environments."

Dr Mountain said the number of public hospital beds per 1000 weighted population in WA had fallen from 3.1 in 1998-99 to 2.5 in 2004-05 - a 19 per cent reduction while the population had grown about 10 per cent.

"WA bed numbers are clearly insufficient to meet demand and the health of our hospitals is suffering," he said.

"This hardly reflects well on a Government which likes to boast that its V8 economy is leading the nation."

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