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Adelaide hospital beds to be mothballed despite record ramping

Email Adelaide hospital beds to be mothballed despite record ramping By Nick Harmsen

Updated October 11, 2019 11:51:44

Exterior of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. Photo: More than 30 beds will be put on stand-by at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. (News Video) Related Story: Central Adelaide Local Health Network is a 'failing organisation', administrators tell inquiry Related Story: 'That's not acceptable': Extent of ramping at major hospital revealed Related Story: Job cuts looming at three of Adelaide's major hospitals, but how many remains unknown Map: Adelaide 5000

The South Australian Government has revealed plans to mothball 60 public hospital beds, including 32 at the flagship Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH), despite record levels of ambulance ramping outside emergency departments in recent months.

Key points:

  • Hospital beds will be mothballed as part of plans by the State Government
  • The beds will only be staffed if there is a "surge" of activity
  • According to SA Health statistics, the RAH has operated at or above 100 per cent capacity on 257 days since it opened

Amid plans to offer voluntary redundancies, the Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CAHLN) has revealed the beds will be put on stand-by, meaning they will only be staffed if there is a surge of activity.

The closures also include 16 beds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, eight beds at Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre, and four beds at St Margaret's Hospital.

CAHLN chief executive Lesley Dwyer said the reduction would bring bed capacity "into line with nationally-accepted best practice levels".

"In hospitals everywhere, there needs to be capacity to allow the system to go up and down and keep pace with predicted seasonal demand, short-term activity surges and population growth," Ms Dwyer said.

"Particularly for the [RAH], we need to re-establish a stand-by bed approach that has never been fully implemented since the new hospital opened.

"As a major referral hospital, it is critical that we adopt this approach."

The announcement comes weeks after ambulance ramping outside hospital emergency departments reached record numbers, as emergency departments struggled to meet patient demand over winter.

Winter peak expected to ease

Ms Dwyer said SA Health's activity forecast indicated the winter peak would ease during October and November.

"It is not sustainable to have hospitals running at 100 per cent all of the time with no beds or wards in reserve for surges in demand, as it leads to poorer patient outcomes," she said.

"Improved activity forecasting, which was 98 per cent accurate for the July-September period, has assisted us to determine the most appropriate areas for stand-by beds, which is also supported by our range of innovative new programs that are avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions.

"Staffing plans will be adjusted to ensure the changes can be safely maintained, and we are encouraging our hardworking staff who haven't been able to take leave to think about taking the opportunity now."

Health executive Lesley Dwyer speaks to the media outside the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Photo: CAHLN chief executive Lesley Dwyer said it was expected demand would drop this month. (ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

According to SA Health statistics, the RAH has operated at or above 100 per cent capacity on 257 days since it opened in September 2017.

In the 2018 and 2019 winter periods, the hospital spent most days operating at 101 per cent capacity.

External Link: @JudkinsSimon tweet

The development comes a month after CAHLN asked staff to nominate voluntary redundancies.

At the time, the Government insisted the process was non-binding, and was not targeting any particular group of staff.

Opposition health spokesperson Chris Picton said the announcement would be a disaster for the health system.

"We always knew when KordaMentha, corporate liquidators, were brought on to run these services, that cuts would be their main priority," he said.

"Now we're seeing the proof in the pudding of that, where the Government's putting the budget bottom line ahead of patient care.

"Wards closed, beds closed is going to mean longer waits for people in emergency, it's going to mean more ramping and it's going to mean worse patient outcomes."

Topics: health, healthcare-facilities, government-and-politics, states-and-territories, adelaide-5000, northfield-5085, semaphore-5019, woodville-5011, sa

First posted October 11, 2019 11:38:07

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