The Guardian Australia
Elderly man with pneumonia waited nine hours on chair in Tasmanian emergency department
The Tasmanian premier says it is disappointing an elderly man with pneumonia waited nine hours on a plastic chair in a hospital emergency department waiting room before seeing a doctor.
It took longer still for the 87-yearold 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,” the premier, Peter Gutwein, said.
Health is a key issue ahead of the state election on 1 May with the Liberal party hoping to win a third consecutive term.
Gutwein said on Tuesday 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,” Gutwein said.
The 87-year-old’s granddaughter, Jessie Lincoln, said “bed block” was blamed for the delay.
“The nurses are doing an amazing job under the circumstances … you can’t fault the nurses,” she told ABC TV. “But they can’t give appropriate medical care in those conditions. We need more beds.”
As of January, 58% 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 underresourcing of the state’s health system was leading to life-threatening problems.
The college 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,” the ACEM president, Dr John Bonning, said.
The elderly man, who was eventually given a bed at the hospital after being diagnosed with pneumonia, was wrapped in clothes by a family member as he waited.
“I cannot imagine what it means to the family,” Labor’s health spokesperson, Dr Bastian Seidel, told reporters. “It’s unacceptable for this poor person to wait hours for treatment.”
A state health department spokesperson said the health service always strove “to ensure patients are seen as quickly as possible”.
“Patients waiting in emergency departments are provided with care, and, while the [department] understands that waiting for treatment can be frustrating, we are doing everything to ensure that patients receive the medical treatment they require,” the spokesperson 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 the election campaign.
The Liberals pledged $157m over four years to address elective surgery wait times while Labor promised to spend $137m on an extra 65 permanent doctors, plus 150 nurses and midwives.