ACT government funds Canberra and Calvary hospitals with $40 million to ease pressure on emergency departments

Monday, May 25, 2015

Canberra and Calvary hospitals to receive $40 million funding boost in ACT budget.

Bed capacity at Canberra's two public hospitals will be boosted with a $40 million funding increase in next month's ACT budget.

The ACT Government said it would mean an extra two intensive care beds and 16 acute beds at Canberra and Calvary hospitals.

Health Minister Simon Corbell said it would help ease the unprecedented pressure on emergency departments and intensive care units.

"One of the main reasons why there's delays in places like the emergency department is [a] lack of beds moving into the hospital system proper," he said.

"So more beds in our wards, more intensive care beds, means more capacity to send people in a more timely way from our emergency department through into the hospital proper."

Recent figures found emergency department waiting times at Canberra's two public hospitals continued to trail the national target with more people seeking treatment for minor ailments.

The ACT Public Health Services Quarterly Performance Report released in April revealed non-urgent presentations to emergency departments were up 26 per cent in the last quarter, when compared to the same period in the previous year.

As a result of the increase in presentations, there was an increase in waiting times for emergency department patients - except for category one patients with the most serious ailments, 100 per cent of which were seen immediately.

Seventy-nine per cent of category two patients were seen within the required 10 minutes, which was below the 80 per cent national target.

The ACT was also below the recommended timeframes for category three patients, with more minor medical problems, where only 45 per cent were seen in the required timeframe.

The national requirement is 75 per cent.

Nurses question who will staff new hospital beds

Australian Nursing Federation ACT branch secretary Jenny Miragaya welcomed the funding for extra beds, but questioned staffing levels.

"There's no point opening beds unless they have sufficient skilled staff, not just nursing staff but also medical and allied health staff to actually provide the care within those beds," she said.

"We are in the happy position at the moment that we appear to have a glut of new graduate or early career nurses.

"And I would hope given the increase in funding towards the beds, that the ACT Government would also have a commitment to employ new graduate nurses and midwives."

Head of medicine at the Canberra Hospital, Dr Walter Abhayaratna, said the new beds were just part of the solution to reducing overcrowding in the Emergency Department.

"It's a universal thing across the country, it's not peculiar to Canberra," Dr Abhayaratna said.

"We could keep increasing the beds [but] if we don't improve the efficiency we'd still have problems."

Budget funds allocated for computer system upgrade

The budget will also set aside $2.1 million over four years to improve the hospitals' IT systems and create a coordination unit to oversee the allocation of beds.

"That is really exciting," Dr Abhayaratna said.

"There's some very nice innovative projects going on to improve efficiencies."

Dr Abhayaratna also welcomed the news the Hospital in the Home program would be expanded.

"Those patients are discharged from their in-patient ward based bed to a virtual bed which is run through the hospital at home."

He said that allowed patients who would not require acute care to be treated at home, with the added benefit of freeing up hospital beds.

The 18 new hospital beds are due to go into use in 2016.