Hospital ramping issue reflares after patients left waiting
ROCKHAMPTON Hospital’s Emergency Room ramping problem has been brought into sharp focus after patients reported having to spend hours waiting in ambulances outside the Rockhampton Hospital this week.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 on reporting within the health system, there are no recent ramping statistics being published providing a clearer picture of the problem.
When the inquiries were made into the issue this week, Rockhampton Hospital executive director Kerrie-Anne Frakes responded saying Rockhampton Hospital Emergency Department staff did an incredible job, treating usually about 145 patients every day.
“The nature of emergencies is they are never planned, and therefore there are peaks and troughs of demand,” Ms Frakes said.
“Multiple ambulances can arrive at the same time, leading to surges in demand.
“Monday was an extremely busy day in the ED, with 163 patients; followed by 154 on
Ms Frakes said the hospital’s teams did a great job of prioritising those who required the most urgent care to ensure everyone got the best possible outcome.
“All patients, whether they arrive by ambulance or in person, are triaged according to their clinical needs,” she said.
When asked about the issue on Thursday, Queensland’s Health Minister Steven Miles couldn’t speak specifically on whether Rockhampton Hospital had a ramping problem, but he defended the efforts of the hospital’s staff.
“They are faced with population growth, an aged population, a decline in the availability of bulk billed GP services, a decline in the number of people with private health insurance and able to access other facilities,” Mr Miles said.
“That is driving a very large growth in demand for our emergency departments.
“It dipped off briefly during the pandemic but is now very much back to business as usual.”
He said that’s why his government continued to invest in more health services, greater budgets, more nurses, doctors, midwives, health professionals and a range of clinical staff.
“Over the next term we’ve committed to another 5,800 nurses and midwives,” he said.
“They are the very people who will deliver those extra services and make sure that we will see those people in our emergency departments quicker.”
According to the Minister, median wait times across the state’s emergency departments were around 15 minutes.
“They do the best that they can but there are always times where there is a larger demand and that leads to delays,” he said.
“Our staff are very good at prioritising and categorising patients as they arrive and seeing them as quickly as they can.
“Sometimes if people have to wait, it’s because they are focusing their time and efforts on people that need to be seen faster.”
Possible link between ramping, bulk billing and tourism
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said she had been in discussions with CQHHS about the issue and it was still unclear the underlying reasons why Rockhampton Hospital’s Emergency Room was being pushed to its limit.
Given the massive influx of tourists to the region due to international travel restrictions, she believed that it could be having a role in driving ER presentations.
She believed another theory touched on by Mr Miles – the lack of bulk billing doctors – was a significant factor.
With many in the community experiencing financial hardship and unable to afford to pay to see a doctor due to the coronavirus pandemic, going to see a doctor for free at an ER was a last resort.
“There are literally only a handful of doctors in this region who bulk bill for anyone, regardless of their situation,” Ms Lauga said.
“That means that there’s queues of people (in the ER) who could be seen (by local GPs) with non-emergency issues.”
The issue of Medicare and bulk-billing rates was a federal issue for Capricornia MP Michelle Landry to respond to.
“The Member for Keppel seems to blame everyone else for her own government’s mistakes,” Ms Landry said.
“We have seen it already with her funding backflip for Great Keppel Island. If she lost her homework, she would blame it on the neighbour’s dog, but it’s classic form for her to publicly express uninformed theories and throw around baseless allegations in the midst of an election.
“The bulk billing rate in Capricornia was 77 per cent, meaning on average more than seven out of 10 visits to the GP were provided with no out-of-pocket cost.”
Ms Landry said her government was delivering record funding for hospitals, medicines and Medicare.
“Federal funding for public hospital services under the Liberal and Nationals Government has increased from $13.3 billion in 2012–13, to more than $29 billion in 2024–25,” she said.
“Individual distribution of funding to individual hospitals is a matter that should be raised with Health Minister Steven Miles.
“It should be easy for the Member for Keppel to do that given he has been electioneering in Rockhampton for the past couple of days.”
She said Labor had an abysmal record when it came to health.
“We are seeing patient wait times blowing out, ambulance ramping is skyrocketing, and code yellows are becoming the norm,” she said.
“The Member for Keppel would rather her own government waste millions on renaming hospitals and on health IT blowouts than actually fixing the problem.
“The Queensland Government is in charge of the care under Queensland Health, it’s that simple.”