15 of Sydney’s 24 hospitals could accept only life-threatening cases last night

Reports that ambulances had to bypass or wait almost three hours at 15 overloaded Sydney emergency departments last night will become even more common, particularly as winter approaches, warns AMA (NSW).

“We’re fed up with this, and it’s time Federal and State Governments took action and stopped blaming each other,” said AMA (NSW) President Dr John Gullotta.

“It feels like we’re putting out the same media release every few months, just with a different date on it!”

Dr Gullotta said it was appalling that 15 of Sydney’s 24 hospitals could accept only life-threatening cases last night, but unfortunately there was no quick solution.

“We need more beds reopened so patients can move through the emergency departments to general wards. More beds means more doctors and nurses, and that’s the hardest part of the equation.”

The Carr Government has promised to reopen 1000 hospital beds, but Dr Gullotta said it would be a pointless exercise without adequate staff levels.

“If the Federal and State Governments are serious about improving this situation, they have to find the political will for a long-term solution – that means a major increase in the number of doctors and nurses being trained and the financial resources to properly care for patients,” he said.

“It is disappointing that NSW Premier Bob Carr is still saying the increased pressure on emergency departments is the result of a decline in bulk-billing, but this plays only a very small part.”

Less than a month ago, Mr Carr told reporters, "There's all these people flooding into emergency to get the sort of treatment that they'd be able to get at a doctor if we still had bulk-billing doctors at the numbers we need them." (AAP , May 22)

Dr Gullotta said the real issue was a lack of access to ward beds, a decreased health workforce and underfunding. Pointing the finger at bulk billing was just a way of trying to push all the blame onto the Federal Government.

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