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Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick has applauded the announcement of an independent census of the state’s hospitals beds.
Victorian Labor Leader Daniel Andrews said today that, upon being elected premier in November, he would appoint former AMA President Dr Doug Travis to conduct a two-stage independent bed census in 2015.
A lack of beds places inordinate stress on Victoria’s hospitals and has a domino effect throughout emergency rooms, on waiting lists and elective surgery times.
Ms Fitzpatrick said there is a severe lack of transparency with regard to bed numbers in the public hospital system.
‘This announcement represents a new and honest approach to Victoria’s bed shortage crisis,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.
‘Our own numbers have revealed an acute bed shortage in our public health system and this contributes to emergency department chaos, violence and dangerous ambulance ramping outside our hospitals.
Ms Fitzpatrick said beds close without notice or public record. They can remain physically in wards but unoccupied due to a lack of funding or disappear entirely from the hospitals.
Alarmingly, the definition of a bed under the Napthine Government now includes chairs, trolleys and beds external to hospitals in the patients’ own homes.
‘We have evidence that shows that beds are being replaced by chairs and patients are being treated in hallways,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.
‘The Napthine Government has shown a complete lack of transparency on bed numbers and their definition of beds also includes chairs and people’s own beds at home.
‘Prior to the last election Health Minister David Davis announced Victoria would gain 800 new public hospital beds, however by our most generous count he is still well short of that mark.
‘At our Annual Delegates Conference in July, Mr Davis dismissed one of our members for asking about the promised 800 beds and he assured every nurse and midwife in the room that 500 of those beds had been delivered by the end of the last financial year.
‘That is simply untrue. Even his own department’s numbers used by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in April this year said the government had added just 43 beds to Victoria’s tally.
‘That figure also included existing beds considered ‘new’ as part of the Albury Hospital merger with Wodonga Hospital, thereby generously inflating the new bed figures.’
At the 26 June ANMF (Vic Branch) delegates’ conference, Mr Davis offered the following response to a delegate’s question on beds:
MINISTER DAVIS: Let me be absolutely crystal clear here. The beds are being delivered; more than 500 beds have been so far delivered to the end of last financial year, and we’re almost to the end of this financial year and there will be even more beds delivered at that point. So your figures are flat wrong and in fact the AIHW figures show a significant increase in bed numbers under this government.
Additionally, the state government’s bed shortfall does not take into account a 2014 ANMF (Victorian Branch) bed audit which revealed that 1,116 existing beds were unavailable for use and a further 101 beds were closed.
Ms Fitzpatrick said she would welcome the findings of a 2015 bed audit.
‘We believe Mr Andrews’s bed census will put an end to the duplicity and spin around the number of available hospital beds to Victorians,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.
‘It will move to end the confusion and offer a solution to the many issues our health system is currently struggling with.
‘There should be nothing to hide. It’s time we learned the truth. Only then can we discover a solution to the problem.
‘Chairs are not beds and never have been.’