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At last, the Health Minister admits more hospital beds are needed

10 January, 2007

The Australian Medical Association(WA) has welcomed the admission by Health Minister Jim McGinty that the public hospital system would benefit greatly from an additional 250 hospital beds.

"The medical profession has been pleading with the Minister and Health Department chief Neale Fong for extra beds for more than two years," said association President Prof Geoff Dobb.

"Unfortunately for the people of WA, those pleas have previously fallen on deaf ears; only two weeks ago Dr Fong said he wouldn't provide more hospital beds - even if he had the money."

Prof Dobb said Mr McGinty had correctly identified that 250 hospital beds in WA could become available for general use if the Federal Government honoured its responsibility to provide more aged-care facilities for the elderly.

"A recent report has revealed that the Federal Government was failing to meet its aged-care bed targets in WA with only 84 beds - instead of 88 - available for every 1000 people aged over 70," said Prof Dobb.

"That equates to a shortfall of about 700 aged-care beds in WA, which means many elderly people are unnecessarily having to be cared for in public hospitals where the beds are desperately needed for acute patients."

Prof Dobb said the bed shortage had put WA's health system in crisis with emergency departments struggling to cope with the log jam of patients unable to be moved to a ward bed.

The crisis had caused many disillusioned doctors and specialists to resign because they refused to work in a system unable to provide the necessary standards of patient care.

"Neither the State nor the Federal Government appear willing to provide the necessary funding to solve this crisis," said Prof Dobb.

"But the community and our Federal and State politicians should be campaigning hard to make both Governments come together to find a solution.

"As long as they refuse to budge more and more people will die needlessly because of the burden in our emergency departments."

Prof Dobb said if the Federal Govt was to provide more aged-care beds, McGinty would have to assure the community that any hospital beds released as a consequence would be maintained and not deducted off the overall bed plan.