Qld Health faces long-stay patient challenge

Fraser Barton |

Long stay hospital patients are posing challenges for Queensland Health, prompting a $200 million injection to address the issue.

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman on Monday unveiled hospital performance data for July to September, saying it showed significant improvements despite increased demand.

Almost 600,000 patients presented to Queensland emergency departments during that time – a three per cent rise compared with the same period last year.

The median emergency department wait time was 15 minutes, compared to 17 minutes in last year’s September quarter.

Qld Minister for Health Shannon Fentiman
Shannon Fentiman says improvements are needed in the NDIS and aged care to relieve hospitals.

Ms Fentiman said Queensland’s public hospitals had also achieved an “all-time record” for elective surgeries completed.

More than 38,200 patients underwent elective surgery, an almost 16 per cent increase compared to the same period last year and the most ever delivered in a single quarter.

However, long-stay patients – those who remain in hospitals for more than 30 days – are a challenge for hospitals.

There were 877 long-stay patients as of August 30, 2023 – an increase of 39 per cent in one year, and costing Queensland Health $1.7 million per day.

The health minister said delays between patients receiving NDIS care and suitable home packages led in turn to hospital capacity issues.

“They’re sitting in our hospitals when they don’t need to be – they actually don’t need that level of care,” she told reporters on Monday.

“We do need to see improvement with the NDIS but we also need to see huge improvement in the aged care sector.”

Ms Fentiman said $200 million would be allocated over the next two years to reduce the number of patients staying in hospitals when other services are available. 

The government will look to boost “hospital in the home” support, work with private nursing care centres and purchase additional beds from private aged care facilities. 

“It is costing us huge amounts of money to have people presenting at our EDs because they can’t get access to a GP,” Ms Fentiman said.

“It is costing us enormous amounts of money to have long-stay aged care patients and NDIS patients in our hospitals.”

Ambulances queuing at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane
Qld’s opposition claims ambulance ramping is almost three-times higher than when Labor took office.

Ms Fentiman said more than 56 per cent of emergency department patients transferred by ambulance were taken off stretcher within 30 minutes of arriving, a 1.8 per cent improvement on the previous quarter.

However the opposition claimed ambulance ramping was worse than the same time two years ago and almost three-times higher than when the Palaszczuk government was first elected.

Opposition health spokesperson Ros Bates also said elective surgery waitlists were now the longest on record for the September quarter under the Palaszczuk government.

“These results are not the fault of our hardworking health professionals, they are the result of a government in chaos and crisis,” she said.

Meanwhile, AMA Queensland applauded the new $200M funding to help get patients out of hospital and into aged or disability care.

“Too many patients are stuck in hospitals because they need more care than they can get at home but there is no place for them to go to,” AMA Queensland President Dr Maria Boulton said.