Hospital log-jam: Sick people can’t get in because hundreds of well people can’t get out

Hundreds of long-stay patients have had to remain in Queensland hospitals because they lacked the support to go home, the state’s health minister says.

May 05, 2022, updated May 05, 2022
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Yvette D’Ath revealed the figure as she called for more Commonwealth help to deal with the issue of long-stay patients, which puts pressure on an already-strained hospital system.

State hospitals had 512 long-stay patients in state hospitals as of February 23, according to Queensland Health.

Ms D’Ath said while the figure was almost 10 per cent lower than the same time last year – a drop she attributed to state investment and the efforts of hospital staff – more federal funding was needed to address the problem.

In a written response to a question in parliament, Ms D’Ath said hospitals continued to deal with “unprecedented acute care demand”.

“Queensland Health continues to advocate to the Commonwealth for long-term, sustainable, and fit-for-purpose solutions to reduce the volume and length of stay for long-stay patients that are medically ready for discharge,” she said.

The health minister on Wednesday said she welcomed funding commitments from the federal opposition to bulk billing and aged care.

“I know that an investment in aged care – having a nurse-to-patient ratio in aged care – will make a difference on our system,” D’Ath said.

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“We have 520 people taking up hospital beds right now who do not need medical care, who either need an aged care placement or an NDIS package. So we know that can make a difference.”

State government records show that 41,000 people from aged care transferred into the state’s hospital system last year, which is why support services at home and in aged care are needed, the minister added.

The Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service had the biggest increase, recording 47 patients in February 2022, an increase of more than 20 from 12 months earlier.

Hospitals in Central Queensland, Mackay, Sunshine Coast, West Moreton and Wide Bay also recorded increases.

The Townsville HHS recorded the greatest decline in numbers, with 119 long-stay patients in February 2021, down to 55 a year later.

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