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WA faces hospital nightmare due to bed shortages

15 November, 2007

Patients will continue to die unnecessarily in WA's public hospital emergency departments while the chronic shortage of ward beds causes alarming levels of over crowding, access block and ambulance ramping, the AMA (WA) has said.

"This has been a never-ending nightmare which the WA Government promised to fix six years ago," said association President Prof Geoff Dobb.

"It costs hundreds of lives, yet the Government still can't accept the fact that until we have enough hospital beds nothing will change."

Prof Dobb said senior doctors, nurses and all those dealing with the chaos in our EDs had been driven to despair trying to cope with the horrendous burden facing them seven days a week.

"Even after the end of this year's flu season, there has been no let up," he said.

"In fact, hardly a day goes by when staff aren't on the brink of demanding hospital administrators implement a Code Yellow (indicating a major internal crisis in the hospital)."

Prof Dobb said public hospital beds per head of population in WA had fallen 19 per cent in the last seven years and were now below the national average.

"The Federal AMA has calculated that for WA hospitals to meet the minimal recommended safety level of 85 per cent occupancy, an extra 400 beds is needed," he said.

"The WA Government has talked about addressing overcrowding and meeting recognised occupancy standards, but the reality is nothing has changed in our EDs – and patients' lives are being put further at risk every day.

"Too much time has been wasted while the State and Federal Governments blame each other for the meltdown in emergency departments; politics have to be put aside and patient safety made paramount.

"There is no excuse for the nation's wealthiest State having a hospital system that is close to dysfunctional."

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