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'Making it up': Minister says stories of patient misery are exaggerated


Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace has doubled down on claims that patient stories about their experiences in the public health system are being “exaggerated” by the opposition.

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The LNP Opposition is demanding Grace apologise for saying on Wednesday it was “making up” patients’ stories about the waiting times at public hospitals.

Grace brushed off their demand, saying the opposition couldn’t be trusted on health.

“They exaggerate, or don’t give the full story, or they turn the story around, and that is what we are referring to here,” she told parliament on Thursday.

However, patients and their families have come forward to condemn the minister.

Catherine Santagiuliana, whose father died of leukemia complications on October 31, said she was “disgusted” by the minister’s initial comments.

She said her dad had spent his much final days being ramped, or treated in the back of an ambulance on a hospital driveway.

“They were disgusting,” she told reporters of Grace’s comments.

“I turned to my husband when I heard her say that and I said: ”So dad was sitting at the back of an ambulance in a wheelchair, on a cold night, in a car park’.

“And I said: ‘We make that up?’ That’s not the sort of stuff you make up.”

Opposition Leader David Crisafulli said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should apologise on behalf of the minister.

He said whistleblowers’ stories shouldn’t be discredited or downplayed by the government.

“I want to see the premier apologise on behalf of every single Queenslander who’s bravely stood up to try and fix a health system, where the government is losing control, and innocent people are collateral damage,” Crisafulli said.

Grace had also said there was “no substance” to an insider’s claim about waiting times for “broken hips”.

The woman in question, Patricia Clayton, is awaiting a bilateral total hip replacement and is confined to a wheelchair.

“I would just like the government to realise that people are suffering,” Ms Clayton said.

“They’re helpless, they can’t really reach out for help because there’s no one to listen.”

Surging demand for beds in recent months has caused a spike in ambulance ramping – when patients are treated in ambulances on hospital driveways until beds become available.

More than 1.39 million people presented at hospital emergency departments between July 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021, an 11.6 per cent increase over the previous period.

The Queensland government committed earlier this week to redirect $100 million in emergency funding from the health budget to increase capacity in the state’s struggling public hospitals.

The opposition has called for a change in “culture” at public hospitals and for real-time data on hospital capacity and emergency department waiting times to be published online like it is in NSW.

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