Published: 10 September 2018

Murchison Independent MLC Ruth Forrest hopes that latest review of hospital emergency departments will result in action to improve them. 

The state’s four hospital emergency departments are being examined closely in an ongoing audit.

The Tasmanian Audit Office is reviewing emergency departments (EDs) at the North West Regional, Mersey Community, Launceston General and Royal Hobart hospitals and will report on its findings early next year.

The Office said one of the reasons for the audit was media coverage of ED issues, including more periods of high demand, more patients with mental health issues, more ambulance ramping, and long waiting times.

Other ED issues included bed block, overcrowding, too few staff, too much pressure on staff and frequent attacks on staff.

“We really want something acted on,” Murchison Independent MLC Ruth Forrest said. She is a member of the parliamentary committee which liaises with the Auditor-General. The committee asked him to look into the occurrence and frequency of ambulance ramping and factors causing bed blockage.

 “Ambulance ramping ends up on the front of the papers all the time. There has been a particular increase in ambulance ramping in recent years and last year at Royal Hobart and Launceston General. It was put down to a difficult flu season. 

“I’ve sat on a couple of committees over the years looking into acute health services. Things like patients not being able to access aged care beds.

“We really do need to understand what the real causes of bed blockage are. That problem backs into the emergency department then onto the ambulance ramp. 

 “Clearly one of the measures is staff safety, sick leave and stress leave and staff having to work extra shifts to cover.”

Ms Forrest said the Auditor-General determined the scope of the audit. He proposed to the parliamentary committee what he wanted to do and they commented on it or suggested other topics to include.

“He’s possibly had quite a bit of representation. He could have had medical staff, unions or nursing staff contacting him. 

“When there’s so much public interest it’s important these audits are done, even with a repeat. These ones we (the committee) might follow up in a couple of years to see what changes have been made.”

The audit’s aim is to determine whether the four EDs are running effectively and efficiently. 

The auditors will look at the EDs from a patient’s viewpoint, including arriving at the hospital, treatment and discharge. 

It will also find out whether the THS has acted on recommendations from previous audits.

The audit covers the Health and Human Services Department, the Tasmanian Health Service and Ambulance Tasmania.

The Advocate 5 September, 2018

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