Patients treated in hospital corridors, paediatric beds converted to deal with demand

Dominic Giannini 25 May 2021 30
 Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has confirmed a large increase in demand for public hospitals in the last month. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Patients are being treated in hallways and paediatric beds are being converted for adult use following a demand surge at Canberra’s public hospitals over the last month.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith confirmed the overwhelming surge on Tuesday (25 May) but could not pinpoint a reason for the increased demand.

Ms Stephen-Smith said health ministers from around the country had a “lightbulb moment” when one mentioned increased pressure on hospital wait times and surgeries at a minister’s meeting last month. The minister was met with a chorus of agreement from their counterparts from around Australia, she said.

“Everyone is experiencing this,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“We do not really know what is causing it. It is probably a combination of factors, but it is absolutely the case that Canberra Hospital has been very busy over at least the last four weeks.”

Calvary has also experienced increased demand, but not to the same level.

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Ms Stephen-Smith said treating patients in hospital corridors was “not a long-term arrangement”.

“That is kept to the absolute minimum and is always managed with patient safety and quality of care,” she said.

The conversion of paediatric beds was one of the strategies employed by the hospital’s leadership to manage the increased demand, she explained.

Canberra Health Services (CHS) confirmed that an eight-bed vacant paediatric ward is being temporarily used for some adult patients, but it will likely only be required until tomorrow morning (26 May).

According to CHS, the use of these beds has not impacted any paediatric services or access to them.

Ambulance bypasses at the Canberra Hospital have also been utilised when demand on the emergency department forced the hospital to take some patients to Calvary.

Hospital wait times and capacity have perenially plagued the ACT Government.

READ ALSO: ‘Delays can be deadly’: endoscopy wait list to undergo audit

The latest Quarterly Performance Report data found that less than half of patients received treatment within the clinically recommended time for their urgency (triage) category.

The ACT Government will also conduct an audit of the endoscopy waiting list after it blew out to 7200 people and reports emerged of at least two people developing cancer while remaining on the list for more than a year.

Health chiefs from around the country have been asked to compile data from the latest surge which will then be analysed at this week’s Health Minister’s meeting to identify any underlying trends or issues.

Giulia Jones

Shadow Health Minister Giulia Jones. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Shadow Health Minister Giulia Jones said chronic bed shortages and long waiting times stemmed from a decade of underfunding.

It was frustrating to watch things in the health system continue to deteriorate, Ms Jones said.

“There does not seem to be any hope on the horizon at this point in time. The system is not big enough for the population … and nurses are finding work twice as hard because of the culture [of bullying],” Ms Jones said.

“This adds to the stress of overcrowding when the hospital is full and when there are not enough beds or operating theatres.”

Ms Jones also took aim at the government’s delayed Canberra Hospital expansion. She said it had been promised at three elections, and by the time it opens, it would not be able to accommodate the increased demand.

“It will be full as soon as it opens. And while we have agreements with private hospitals [for surgeries], we cannot rely on private hospitals because the government does not control them,” she said.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he wanted to see more investment in the public health sector from the Commonwealth Government following the recent federal budget.

He wanted to see the cost-sharing breakdown increase to a 50-50 split between the Commonwealth and states and territories.

“This is a perennial issue we need to resolve between three governments – the ACT, NSW and the Commonwealth,” he said.

“We have the largest cross-border service provision challenge of any state or territory, and this is an ongoing issue. We need to build much bigger facilities in order to cater for all of the NSW residents who use Canberra Hospital and other parts of our health system.”

Around a quarter of health patients in the ACT health system are from NSW, Mr Barr said.

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30 Responses to Patients treated in hospital corridors, paediatric beds converted to deal with demand
Katy Did Katy Did 8:49 pm 26 May 21

Not hard. Backup from COVID and lots of nursing staff deployed elsewhere

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:23 pm 26 May 21

Cross-border servicing with inadequate compensation – most notably for health services – is not a new issue for ACT Governments.

They’ve been complaining about it for a long time, and certainly well before the 2016 ACT election when ACT Labor told voters that “we can have light rail and a new hospital”, and then chose to put a new hospital back on the back-burner once the election was over. They own these problems, and are making it worse with planning and taxation policies which are pushing potential ACT residents (and the per capita federal funding which goes with them) across the border into NSW.

Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 1:41 pm 26 May 21

Jesus dont send them to Calvary, they will not get treated there... hopeless Dr's...nurses are great, Dr's not...

Jon Clark Jon Clark 8:11 am 26 May 21

I've spent over 24hrs in hallway, and spent many days over the years in the hallway,

Vickie O'Malley Vickie O'Malley 8:16 pm 25 May 21

Marie Seisun thought you may find this interestingly.

Corey Karl Corey Karl 7:52 pm 25 May 21

That was happening before a spike in anything

Cathy Louise Cathy Louise 7:23 pm 25 May 21

Maybe because every time I try to see a GP they say I can’t attend if I have a runny nose, sore throat, fever or any COVID symptoms, regardless of whether I have a negative COVID test. And they won’t prescribe antibiotics over Telehealth. So then they say to go to emergency for antibiotics, which is ridiculous.

    Heidi Tunks Heidi Tunks 8:07 pm 25 May 21

    Cathy Louise ochre, they have nurses and will let you attend if you have a negative test. Alternatively, i was referred to Your GP at crace which is a respiratory clinic. They can see you without a test result

    Cathy Louise Cathy Louise 8:21 pm 25 May 21

    Heidi Tunks tried to go to an Ochre centre last week and wasn’t allowed. Which one are you referring to?

    Kat Lindbeck Kat Lindbeck 8:44 pm 25 May 21

    Cathy not all these symptoms require antibiotics. Antibiotics won’t help a viral infection.

    Tracey Lean Tracey Lean 8:45 pm 25 May 21

    Cathy Louise 💯 if you present with flu like symptoms the best the GP will offer is a phone consult which does absolutely nothing. General healthcare is a thing of the past

    Cathy Louise Cathy Louise 9:36 pm 25 May 21

    Monique Earsman I’ve had two chest infections and laryngitis. I never said a cold?

    Cathy Louise Cathy Louise 6:41 am 26 May 21

    Monique Earsman well clearly the doctors who prescribed me antibiotics thought they were

    Whitney Richardson Whitney Richardson 1:34 pm 26 May 21

    Tracey Lean but what are they supposed to do instead when you have flu like symptoms? The flu is a virus and nothing helps besides rest and hydration and staying away from others. Also, you would call an ambulance straight away if your symptoms worsened to the point of emergency care being needed. A doctor can’t do much for a virus anyway

    Cathy Louise Cathy Louise 1:36 pm 26 May 21

    Kat Lindbeck all of them required antibiotics.

    Kat Lindbeck Kat Lindbeck 3:28 pm 26 May 21

    Cathy May be you should read this an realise antibiotics won’t fix your common cold or flu that caused by a virus.


    Kat Lindbeck Kat Lindbeck 3:30 pm 26 May 21

    Monique I agree. Laryngitis is mainly caused by a virus so antibiotics isn’t going to fix it.

    Cathy Louise Cathy Louise 3:30 pm 26 May 21

    Kat Lindbeck I had a bacterial chest infection - confirmed by a sputum sample. I was on clarithromycin for three weeks.

    Maybe you shouldn’t try to diagnose strangers over Facebook and leave that to trained medical professionals 🙃

    Kat Lindbeck Kat Lindbeck 3:33 pm 26 May 21

    Cathy laryngitis is caused by a viral infection and causes inflammation of the voice box or larynx, hence no need for antibiotics. It is usually self-resolves in a week or two with rest of the voice, anti inflammatory medication and in severe cases oral steroids. The GP feel pressured to prescribe antibiotics even when they are clearly not needed.

    Kat Lindbeck Kat Lindbeck 3:39 pm 26 May 21

    Cathy well why did you say you had laryngitis above. Some chest infections are caused by viral infections and not all bacterial. Hence the virus moving from your upper airway to your lower respiratory tract. I am a trained health professional so before you shoot your mouth off get your facts right. I was NOT and have not tried diagnosed you. I have just provided you information based on your complaint of a GP you think should have provided you a script for antibiotics.

    Tracey Lean Tracey Lean 5:40 pm 26 May 21

    Whitney Richardson it may not be the flu. It could be something that requires antibiotics or any other type of medication or medical attention. My point is you can’t physically see the Dr to find out so perhaps that is a contributing factor to the spike in hospital admissions

    Monique Earsman Monique Earsman 6:22 pm 26 May 21

    Kat Lindbeck exactly, GPs over prescribing antibiotics affects us all.

Tina Easton Tina Easton 7:22 pm 25 May 21

The Health system isn't keeping up with population increase. The hospital is tired run down and dirty - you can't keep polishing a turd

Zakzook Chico Zakzook Chico 6:54 pm 25 May 21

Maybe because health care is too expensive so people are avoiding seeing a GP? So guess what, they get sicker and the failing hospital system can’t cope with the demand...

Anthony Chase Anthony Chase 6:51 pm 25 May 21

It was entirely predictable.

Robert Harrop Robert Harrop 6:49 pm 25 May 21

It maybe the virus vaccination

Karen Evans Karen Evans 6:42 pm 25 May 21

Ummmmm....... in my experience there’s nothing new here...... MANY times patients have had to be treated in the corridors at TCH.... quite laughable how this “appears” to be an unusual event??

    Kat Lindbeck Kat Lindbeck 8:42 pm 25 May 21

    Karen agree with you, this is not a unusual event for TCH.

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