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Hospitals discharge 52 elderly, disabled patients who stayed too long

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In an effort to free up more beds, Queensland Health has moved on 52 patients who could be supported in aged care or the NDIS.

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Health Minister Yvette D’Ath had called on the Morrison government to deal with 549 long stay hospital patients who her department believed could live in the community with the appropriate Commonwealth support.

Now, her department has moved on roughly one in 10 of those patients, as Queensland’s health system is bolstered to not only be capable of dealing with more COVID-19 cases, but the needs of people pushed to the back of the queue.

On Friday, a parliamentary committee hearing into the health budget focussed on Liberal National Party claims of a health crisis caused by Labor mismanagement. Ambulance ramping, and so-called ‘bed block’ preventing patients from being admitted, has plagued the system for months.

D’Ath told the committee public hospitals were under pressure all over Australia – there has been a nation-wide increase in emergency presentations and elective surgery delays – and accused the LNP of a “reckless campaign to undermine faith in our health system”.

D’Ath pre-empted the scrutiny by announcing another $163.7 million in new funding, in addition to $100 million already committed, to increase the number of extra public and private hospital beds being procured to 416.

Opposition leader David Crisafulli seized on the timing of the announcement, prompting D’Ath to remark that she was being asked “was my announcement this morning in relation to any signs of the crisis and the answer is no”.

The Minister also revealed Queensland Health had “stepped in” to move on 52 NDIS and aged care patients who should not have had to stay so long in hospitals. She did not detail where they had gone, but emphasised that the Morrison Government was ultimately responsible.

Documents tabled in the committee show D’Ath wrote to the Commonwealth about the issue in March, and then led a discussion at a health ministers’ meeting in April where “all states and territories reported that they were experiencing similar challenges and it was agreed that a senior officers’ working group would be established to develop systemic solutions”.

Since then, Queensland has established, at a cost of $4 million, several internal teams dedicated to transitioning these patients into the community. D’Ath indicated the State had been forced to intervene because the Commonwealth would not.

Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates spent much of the hearing asking hospital bosses whether recent funding injections would be enough to relieve pressure. They generally argued that while the problems were complex, and multi-faceted, any extra funding would help.

D’Ath, the leader of the house, has since postponed this week’s estimates committee hearings due to the COVID-19 lockdown in south-east Queensland.

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