The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
LESS than a year after it opened, the $1.5 billion Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital remains in crisis, with staff complaining of a lack of beds for critically ill children.
Clinicians are compiling a letter of complaint to Health Minister Cameron Dick, which cites failings such as surgeries being routinely cancelled.
One doctor told The Sunday Mail children’s lives were being put at risk. Patients have even been advised they would be better off going to a private hospital.
A family complained this week of waiting 18 hours in emergency for treatment while doctors contemplated airlifting their 13-year-old child to Toowoomba.
A Sunday Mail investigation also learned unqualified nurses were caring for babies in the intensive care unit.
Up to 15 elective surgery lists were cancelled with one clinician warning: “This is clinically unsafe.”
A surgeon described the operating theatres as “chaotic” and “dysfunctional”.
“The hospital was built with too few beds and is full every day,” one doctor said.
“Semi-urgent cases now have to wait until mid-September for a bed.”
Staff were “dispirited” and had no confidence that the executives who created the problems could lead the hospital through them. Many staff were leaving. “Because of staff shortages and loss of experienced staff, there are student nurses working in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit,” a doctor said. “This is unprecedented.”
He said the junior nurses were doing their best but remained inexperienced.
While an independent review pointed to failings on the part of the executive, the report failed to provide a plan for the future.
“The hospital remains profoundly dysfunctional. Staff have no interest in a political blame game. Staff want solutions,” a doctor said.
Rural health advocate Justine Christerson said yesterday the hospital continues to cancel surgeries effectively turning children away.
“It’s an outrage,” she said. She said the review covered only the bungled opening and did not address wider, systemic problems.
“In that sense the report was a whitewash,” she said.
Doctors believe Lady Cilento is 60 beds short of the number recommended under its own Health Services Plan.
Mr Dick would not comment. A Lady Cilento spokesman admitted shortcomings. He said there was a national shortage of nurses trained for paediatric intensive care.
And there was no budget for any more beds.