Action on ramping crisis welcome

A $20 million, five-point action plan to address ambulance ramping is welcome, AMA Queensland President Dr Maria Boulton has told Weekend Today. "We can't afford to continue to lose staff. Every year we see a big attrition of junior doctors. Those junior doctors need to be supported so that they can continue to stay at work."

Transcript: AMA Queensland President Dr Maria Boulton, Weekend Today with Jayne Azzopardi, Saturday 25 November 2023

Subject: Ambulance ramping

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:   The Queensland Government has unveiled a $20 million, five-point plan to ease the state's ambulance ramping crisis, including more triage nurses, appointing doctors to manage patient flow and better after-hours access to X-rays and imaging. The meeting with emergency workers yesterday came as two lives were tragically cut short this week. Wayne Irving died after spending three hours in an ambulance ramped outside Ipswich Hospital, while Cath Groom lost her life after an ambulance failed to reach her. Their families are demanding answers.


IRVING FAMILY:   More to the point, why did it happen in an ambulance? Why sitting at the hospital? Why wasn't he in the hospital? I just, we just can't get around it.

GROOM FAMILY:   Why are there so many cases? Why aren't there enough resources? And I'm not interested in secondhand condolences from anybody in the government. I want solutions and I will not rest until I get an answer.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:   Some pretty powerful advocates there. And we're joined now by the AMA President in Queensland, Dr Maria Boulton in Brisbane. Good morning to you, Maria. We heard from the families there. Can you explain to us the big picture, how big an issue is ambulance ramping in Queensland?

DR MARIA BOULTON:   Good morning, Jayne. It has been such a tragic week and healthcare workers have been warning for some time now that this may happen. We know from our AMA Ambulance Ramping Report that no state or territory has met ambulance ramping targets. For example, if you look at Queensland, Queensland has a target of transferring 90 per cent of patients off an ambulance and into an emergency hospital bed within 30 minutes. We only achieved that 58.7 per cent of the time in 2021-22. When you add up how many hours ambulances were ramped in that period, it was in excess of 130,000 hours. And tragically, this is repeated through all the states and territories.

Healthcare workers are working so hard, they do the best they can. They want to go to work and care for everyone. They don't want to be constrained by a system that's underfunded and under-resourced. They just want to do their job. And when they see people who are waiting, it really breaks their heart that they can't do more. But it's not on them. They do a fabulous job, and where would we be without them?

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:   That is a really important point to make. Have you had a look at the government's plan that it released yesterday? Do you think it will work?

DR MARIA BOULTON:   Yes, we have. We've had conversations with the office of the state Health Minister all week, and this is on the back of the work that we did in 2021, which produced some recommendations to reduce ambulance ramping. We've had a look at the recommendations made yesterday. They're a really good start. There are some of our recommendations that we actually made to her office – for example, introducing the practice care coordinators in general practice and also more workforce. We know that workforce is really critical.

We know that we have 2,500 new beds coming online in the next five and six years, so we're going to need extra workforce to ensure that patients in those beds can be cared for. And we are worried as to where that workforce is coming from. But we have seen some good action from the Minister. We've seen an emphasis on retention and also recruitment, because we know that's what's needed, number one, number two, number three, we need more workforce.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:   Well, we know there is an election coming up in Queensland next year. What would your message be to both sides of politics?

DR MARIA BOULTON:   Our message is to continue to engage with frontline workers. This is not an issue that is caused by emergency - it's a broader issue. We need more support for general practice so that we can prevent more chronic illness. We need more support for people in hospital beds. There are over 500 people in hospital beds in Queensland who are waiting for aged care and disability care facilities. They need support to be moved into those facilities.

We need more support for staff. We can't afford to continue to lose staff. Every year we see a big attrition of junior doctors. Those junior doctors need to be supported so that they can continue to stay at work. We also need to look at the number of staff that we're recruiting. We need to understand the needs of what we currently have of doctors, nurses, allied health workers, and what we're going to need in the next five and 10 years and ensure that we're recruiting and educating enough.

This is going to need a lot of work, a lot of collaboration. For some, unfortunately, it's too late. It will take some time to undo what's been done. But hopefully we can work together, as long as they continue to listen to those workers on the ground.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI:   Dr Maria Boulton in Brisbane, thank you.

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