Sick man ‘waited hours’ in Tas hospital

It took 30 hours for an 87-year-old man to be provided with a bed at Launceston General Hospital.
 It took 30 hours for an 87-year-old man to be provided with a bed at Launceston General Hospital.

Tasmania’s premier says he was disappointed to hear reports an elderly man with pneumonia waited nine hours on a plastic chair in a hospital emergency waiting room.

The Examiner newspaper also revealed it took 30 hours for the 87-year-old to be provided with a bed at the Launceston General Hospital after he presented there last Tuesday.

“It was disappointing to read that, and obviously nobody likes to see that,” Mr Gutwein said.

Health is a key issue ahead of the state election on May 1, with the Liberals aiming for a third consecutive term.

Mr Gutwein said the number of people currently presenting to state emergency departments was 300-350 more per week than when the party came to power in 2014.

“We accept that we have increasing demand and an older, more vulnerable, population,” Mr Gutwein said.

As of January, 58 per cent of people presenting to emergency departments across the state were seen on time, according to health department data.

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine recently said long-term under-resourcing of the state’s health system was leading to life-threatening problems.

ACEM said it was “common” for people to spend hours, or the best part of a day, in EDs waiting for an inpatient bed, particularly those needing mental health care.

“Tasmania’s healthcare system has lagged behind the rest of Australia for too long,” ACEM president Dr John Bonning said.

The elderly man, who was given a bed at the hospital after being diagnosed with pneumonia, was wrapped up in clothes by a family member as he waited.

“I cannot imagine what it means to the family. It’s unacceptable for this poor person to wait hours for treatment,” Labor health spokesperson Dr Bastian Seidel told reporters.

A state health department spokesman said the health service “always strives to ensure patients are seen as quickly as possible”.

“Patients waiting in emergency departments are provided with care, and, while the (Tasmania Health Service) understands that waiting for treatment can be frustrating, we are doing everything to ensure that patients receive the medical treatment they require,” it said in a statement.

“The (Launceston General Hospital) utilises clinical initiative nurses whose roles include liaising with patients in the waiting area on a regular basis and reassessing needs and communicating with them on the timing of their care and any other concerns they may have.”

Both major political parties have made significant health promises during the first three weeks of campaigning.

The Liberals pledged $157 million over four years to address elective surgery wait times, while Labor will spend $137 million on an extra 65 permanent doctors, plus 150 nurses and midwives, if elected.