That wonderful Leftist "compassion" again
QUEENSLAND health authorities have responded to booming population growth with just one extra hospital bed for every 13,553 new residents. The abysmal planning failure is exposed in state and federal health figures analysed by The Courier-Mail. Between 1995 and 2008, Queensland grew by 1.03 million people. During the same period, the number of overnight beds in the state public hospital system stagnated. There were 10,115 beds in 1995 and 10,191 in 2008 – a 13-year net increase of 76 beds.
Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Queensland chairman David Rosengren said funds had been siphoned from in-patient care to hospital bureaucracy as part of a "close a bed, open an office" syndrome. He said the number of hospital administrators rose sharply in the first half of this decade. "There are buildings and buildings . . . floors and floors and floors of administrators in Queensland Health," Dr Rosengren said.
Statistics from Queensland Health show the State Government began tearing at the heart of acute-care hospitals with the rise to power in 1998 of Premier Anna Bligh's predecessor Peter Beattie. Bed numbers tumbled each year under the false assumption that new medical techniques and efficiencies would reduce gross occupancy. New and redeveloped hospitals were built with less [fewer beds], culminating in a low-point of 9262 beds in 2002.
The Government has bolstered bed stock in the past three years, and embarked on a new $6 billion hospital infrastructure makeover. Health Minister Paul Lucas says the building and refurbishment agenda will deliver more than 1800 beds over the next seven years. The Gold and Sunshine coasts, Cairns, Townsville and Mackay are among the beneficiaries. "On any examination of the statistics of health care in Australia, we have (one of the) best if not the best systems in the world," Mr Lucas said.
But research by QUT public health academic Gerry Fitzgerald indicates otherwise. In a 2008 report, Professor Fitzgerald, a former Queensland chief health officer, calculated that the state was around 3000 beds in arrears. From 1997 to 2007, the effective bed reduction – taking in population growth – was double the national rate. Since then, Auditor-General Glenn Poole has issued a rebuke over the disarray of the hospitals' infrastructure program.
Following that report in June, Queensland Health director-general Mick Reid confessed that some future services may have been wrongly placed. He also said hospital buildings had been announced without recurrent funding to operate them.
Meantime, the pressure on hospital beds is destined to accelerate with the most recent 12-month population increase a record 112,666.
QUT School of Public Health head MaryLou Fleming said the focus needed to turn from more hospital beds to greater investment in health maintenance. "Currently, 2 per cent of the money that is spent in health federally goes to promotion and prevention strategies," Professor Fleming said. "Unless we turn that around, we are headed for a catastrophe." [Typical theory-driven academic ignorance. All the research shows that prevention strategies are not overall cost-effective. I quote from a comprehensive recent survey of the research evidence: "Although some preventive measures do save money, the vast majority reviewed in the health economics literature do not." MaryLou's gross ignorance of the research makes her a disgrace to her university. The journal I quoted is NEJM. I wonder has MaryLou ever had anything published in NEJM? -- JR]
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