The Gold Coast Bulletin
Hospital in triage over bed numbers
GOLD Coast University Hospital (GCUH) had run out of beds for the first three days of this week — and a nurse said patients were waiting in corridors for hours.
“There’s literally nowhere to put anybody. We need more beds, we need better procedures for moving people along and getting them faster access to a bed,” said the nurse, who did not want to be named.
When asked if sick patients were waiting in corridors, the nurse said “absolutely, they often are there for hours”.
“Doctors are working to frantically discharge as many patients from the wards to free up beds, but when sick people are in corridors there’s no oxygen, no suction and no machines if their condition deteriorates. We can’t stuff in anymore people if we tried.”
On Tuesday, 514 people presented to emergency departments (EDs) at GCUH and Robina hospitals. This is down from the record 714 who presented on Monday.
A Gold Coast Health spokeswoman said the GCUH was on a code yellow on Wednesday but Robina’s had been lifted. Both were code yellow on Monday and Tuesday. A code yellow declaration is made when a hospital is full and cannot meet public demand for the local area health service.
The spokeswoman said that on Monday the EDs at GCUH and Robina hospitals saw 714 people and about one-third required hospital admission.
“On Monday, GCUH reached a level 6.3 bed capacity, which is equivalent to a code yellow in other hospitals. This was caused by a surge in ambulance arrivals as well as the number of walk-in presentations,” she said. “To meet this demand, we flexed bed availability between our two public hospitals as well as partnered with private hospitals.”
A senior staffer said paramedics were ramped in corridors at GCUH, often for hours, which meant they weren’t able to attend call-outs as promptly.
“If there’s an emergency in the community it means paramedics can’t get to them as quickly. There’s a real knockon effect ... People in their 80s shouldn’t be lying in corridors.”
The staffer said Gold Coast’s public health system had been struggling to meet demand for emergency medicine for months. In some cases doctors were being forced to discharge patients from ED in the middle of the night to free up beds.
A Bulletin investigation in 2019 revealed the city’s two public hospitals had 500 fewer beds than the national average. The Australian Medical Association reported public hospitals across the country in 2018 had on average 2.6 beds for every 1000 people. The Gold Coast’s average, with a population of 591,000, was just 1.69.
Shadow health minister Ros Bates said the latest performance figures revealed that in February this year, half of the patients who arrived at GCUH by ambulance were being ramped. This is a 15 per cent increase since February 2020.
The definition of ambulance ramping is when a patient is not transferred “off-stretcher” within 30 minutes.
“The Gold Coast is desperate for new funding, more beds and a plan to fix ramping and reduce surgery wait times.”
During periods of peak demand, the hospital service is asking Gold Coasters to consider using 13 HEALTH or visit their GP if their health concerns can be treated outside the hospital setting.