More than 80 Tasmanians a year die prematurely because of bed block in hospital emergency departments, a report says.
Health policy analyst Martyn Goddard, whose report is based on official data and statistics found the Launceston General Hospital had the worst bed block of 287 Australian public hospitals with emergency departments.
Bed block is defined as patients waiting in emergency for eight hours or longer.
The waiting time at the LGH was 22 hours 38 minutes, while the Royal Hobart Hospital which fared ninth worst was 16 hours 59 minutes. The North West Regional Hospital was 14 hours 19 minutes and the Mersey Hospital 10 hours 34 minutes.
Mr Goddard said research showed a person’s chances of dying if they were affected by bed block increased by about a third.
“”It is likely that there are in excess of 80 premature deaths a year in Tasmanian hospitals because of emergency department bed block,” he said.
“Some of them would have would have gone on to have a normal life and we’ve taken it from them.
“Tasmania has the worst public hospital system in the country. We need the best system because we are the oldest, sickest, poorest population.”
RHH Staff Association spokesman Dr Frank Nicklason with waiting times in emergency at the RHH at crisis point this week people would die.
“My gut feeling is the figure is probably higher than 30 per cent increased risk of dying,” Dr Nicklason said.
“We have 33 admitted patients in 23 cubicles and four bays when they should be on wards.”
Mr Goddard’s report also revealed that the state government has diverted $1.6 billion in health-related GST payments away from health.
“In other words our health system would have had 35 per cent more spent if the government had put the GST given for health into health instead of diverting it for other purposes of its own,” he said.
“If we hadn't been taking this money out for so long we would have a system that is capable of delivering more care to more patients than any other system in the country.”
The report found the number of patients has been growing almost three times as fast as the number of beds. Public hospitals would need an extra 350 beds to return to the levels of capability and occupancy that existed in 2011, before budget cuts began, it said.
Mr Goddard said in 2016-17, private patients comprised 22 per cent of all inpatients in Tasmanian public hospitals which cost the hospital system $38 million.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson rejected Mr Goddard’s figures and said Tasmania spent 30 per cent of its budget on health – the second highest spend in Australia.
“There is now $1.8 billion more for health than when we came to Government,” he said. “We have opened 120 more beds and recruited over 800 more staff to help meet this demand.
“We reject the assertion that Tasmanian public hospitals are not safe. Tasmanians should be confident that they will receive appropriate care in their public hospitals, and we thank our incredibly hardworking staff who do a terrific job caring for patients.”
Labor health spokeswoman Sarah Lovell said Mr Ferguson must explain where the GST health money had gone.
Greens health spokeswoman Dr Rosalie Woodruff said Mr Goddard’s claim that more than 80 mortalities a year can be avoided, due to chronically under-resourced hospitals, was alarming.
“It seems clear the lack of federal and state funds are putting lives at risk,” she said.
Mr Goddard said Mr Ferguson should resign.
“If I was Michael Ferguson I would resign because the job is simply impossible.
You can't run this system with this fiscal policy. No health minister can run it.”
Health and Community Services Union secretary Tim Jacobson said he had worked in and advocated on behalf of the health system for 30 years and had never seen a hospital system “so bad.”
“It is getting worse and if we had had a bad flu outbreak we would not have coped – we dodged a bullet there but who knows what will happen next year,” Mr Jacobson said.
“Our workers are tired, overworked and undervalued.
“The government needs to restore support workers in community outreach centres in rural communities to stop people getting sicker and ending up in hospital.”
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Union secretary Emily Shepherd said nurses struggled every day and could understand why patients became aggressive.
“”It takes its toll – we have had nurses bitten, punched and spat on,” she said.
“But when people are ill, vulnerable and in an overcrowded ED, they do become agitated and that can fuel violent and aggressive behaviour.”