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.

 ?? Photograph: Alamy ?? The 87-year-old’s granddaugh­ter, Jessie Lincoln, says hospital staff ‘can’t give appropriat­e medical care in those conditions – we need more beds’.
Photograph: Alamy The 87-year-old’s granddaugh­ter, Jessie Lincoln, says hospital staff ‘can’t give appropriat­e medical care in those conditions – we need more beds’.

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