Fears on patient waiting lists

LABOR has seized on figures that show Tasmania has the highest patient wait times for emergency department treatment, adding that it will worsen particularly as less beds become available during the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment.
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Health Minister Michael Ferguson says an increasing number of emergency department presentations will be a persistent problem for the government.

But Health Minister Michael Ferguson has rejected the claim, saying that the government has planned for the same amount of beds to remain open for the duration of the project.

Ninety per cent of Tasmaniansadmitted to a public hospital emergency departmentstayed up to 19 hours and 24minutes, while the remaining10 per cent stayed evenlonger, an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released on Thursday revealed.

The state statistic was the highest in the nation.

Opposition health spokeswoman Rebecca White said the latestfigures were worrying.

She said in addition, figures leaked toLabor Party indicated that 54 patients spent more than 24 hours in the Hobart emergency department in October –a 300 per cent increase on the same month last year.

She said on Thursday 16 patients were forced to wait for over 12 hours for a bed and another seven waiting over 20 hours.

“What’s most worrying is that these figures were compiled during a period when the hospital has access to flex beds,” Ms White said.

Mr Ferguson said thatpatients were waiting 45 hours in emergency department waiting rooms when he became minister in 2014 and that thegovernment was still working through emergency department management challenges.

“We’ve opened beds, we’ve employed more nurses and we’ve put more nurses in the permanent pool,” he said.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmanian branch nursing industrial officer Caroline Saint said waiting times causedstress fornurses andpatients and their loved ones.

“Without more beds, and appropriate staffing, waiting times are always going to be difficult to contain … It’s good to see that, despite increases in patientnumbers, the [admitted wait time] wait time did drop slightly [over a year],” Ms Saint said.

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