Hospitals overflowing and ambulances turned away, Libs reveal

The Liberal opposition has come up with dismal figures for the July-September period of 2009 related to inadequate emergency services, bed shortages and overflowing emergency departments. According to reports that they obtained under the Freedom of Information, only one in six hospitals had acceptable performance standard for ambulance cases.

The Victorian Government has retaliated by stating this as "scaremongering" while the opposition health spokesman David Davis went on to say that the government should have revealed this to the public themselves instead of "fudging" the true extent of the problem by not counting so-called alert system 'diversions' of ambulances as bypasses.

Ambulance diversions are turning away ambulances because of a full emergency department. These diversions can be either official bypasses or under Hospital Early Warning Status (HEWS), an alert system that notifies ambulances that the emergency department is diverting cases. These bypasses were seen most frequently at the Royal Melbourne and Western Hospital at Footscray, where ambulances were diverted in about nine per cent of cases, triple the government-set benchmark of three per cent according to the report. The figures from Sunshine, Eastern (Box Hill) and Maroondah hospitals also ranged between 4-6%.

Mr Davis criticized the current situation on Sunday saying, "The patient speeding towards the hospital is diverted to a different and more distant hospital, and their health is potentially compromised by those diversions…John Brumby and his government promised more than 10 years ago to fix our health system…John Brumby has closed hospital beds around Victoria... the failure to meet those benchmarks is a shocking indictment on John Brumby after 10 years of government, and this failure to provide proper services and its impact on patients means lives potentially are at risk…One thing Mr Rudd could demand out of John Brumby is that the true number of hospital diversions be reported to the public."

In reply to these accusations the Government spokeman said that these bypasses were "an important tool used by clinicians which ensures the whole health system is available to patients - not just their local health service". He continued, ”Ted Baillieu and David Davis are scaremongering, and their claims amount to little more than ‘furphy’, when the Liberal Party's own record on health is that of closing a dozen hospitals and sacking thousands of nurses."

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