Media release

Queensland hospital performance slipping

The 2024 AMA Public Hospital Report Card has found Queensland's performance is slipping in key areas. While there are some green shoots, they are not evenly spread, AMA Queensland President Dr Maria Boulton has told ABC Radio Brisbane. "Those green shoots pertain to metro areas. It's very different once you get north of the Sunshine Coast to Townsville and West Queensland. In some areas, only 23 per cent of people are having their category three elective surgery within the clinical recommended time."

Transcript: AMA Queensland President, Dr Maria Boulton, ABC Brisbane, Drive with Kelly Higgins-Devine, Friday 19 April 2024

Subject: AMA Public Hospital Report Card

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: If you've ever spent hours waiting for treatment for you or a loved one in a hospital emergency department, you might not be surprised to hear a new report shows the performance of Queensland's hospitals is continuing to decline. The Australian Medical Association's latest Report Card shows our hospitals are under pressure. Dr Maria Boulton is President of AMA Queensland.

DR MARIA BOULTON: Good afternoon, Kelly.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: Let's start with emergency department times. Wait times for patients, is that in any way better?

DR MARIA BOULTON: There's been a slight improvement when it comes to wait times for patients. But the issue with Queensland when you drill down into the data, Queensland being the decentralised state that it is, those results are not reflective of the entire of the state. So, when you get out of the south-east corner and Cairns, in that area between the Sunshine Coast, Townsville and West Queensland, we're seeing people waiting longer for health care.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: So depending on where you are, your level of healthcare is going to be very much influenced by that.

DR MARIA BOULTON: Most definitely.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: What about ambulance ramping, patients waiting outside the emergency departments?

DR MARIA BOULTON: That is still an issue, and it's an issue that has gotten worse since COVID. But there seems to be no end to this. If you're a patient who needs an ambulance and that ambulance is ramped in a hospital with a patient, you might be waiting for longer for that ambulance to access you.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: Now, what about elective surgery wait times? The Queensland Health Minister released a statement today saying long waits have dropped by 43 per cent, and there's been a 6.4 per cent increase in the number of elective surgeries compared to pre-COVID. Are you seeing those same green shoots in this report?

DR MARIA BOULTON: We are. But once again, those green shoots pertain to metro areas. It's very different once you get north of the Sunshine Coast to Townsville and West Queensland. In some areas, only 23 per cent of people are having their category three elective surgery within the clinical recommended time.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: Dr Maria Boulton, President of AMA Queensland, joining me this afternoon on ABC Radio Brisbane, you're with Kelly Higgins-Devine and we're talking about the AMA's latest Report Card on our hospitals. So, Maria, how much could migration have to do with this? We've been hearing about the huge number of people coming to Queensland from southern states especially. Would that have anything to do with the pressure we're seeing on our health system?

DR MARIA BOULTON: Absolutely. Any increase in population puts pressure on our health care system, as does an ageing population. As people live longer, there's more chronic disease. People are more likely to need health care. But the other thing we're seeing is the result of a lack in planning, and that's to do with workforce. We're experiencing workforce shortages in all health care areas - doctors, nurses and allied health - and we're playing catch-up. I'm worried with the announcement of 3,000 new hospital beds over the next few years, which we do need, we need to focus more on workforce because for all of those beds, you need 10 healthcare workers to care for one patient in one bed.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: So, we've got the Health Ministers’ meeting today in Queensland to discuss an additional $13.2 billion in national health funding. Those areas we've just discussed, would they be your main priorities if you were a national Health Minister?

DR MARIA BOULTON: Our advocacy priorities with AMA Queensland are really clear. Our No.1 priority is workforce, and that's where a lot of the funding needs to go, to fund the workforce. They need to also focus on finalising the workforce plan and that plan needs to incorporate not just public hospitals, but private hospitals, aged care, primary care, and NDIS. We're also calling for more funding for general practice because we know that GPs keep people healthy and out of hospital, and we can't afford to continue to build hospitals. They're very expensive, we'd rather keep people healthy and well. We also need to look at the number of medical students that Queensland is producing. We're too short, we need more, and we need them to have those training pathways when they become doctors, to become the specialists that we'll be looking after us.

KELLY HIGGINS-DEVINE: That was Dr Maria Boulton, President of AMA Queensland, talking about the national hospital report that was released today.

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