Patients admitted to western Sydney hospitals often have to wait for 48 hours to get a bed, while three-day delays are also becoming more common.
This is according to a health department source, who claimed there is a “chronic shortage of ward beds” in the region. The insider added that these delays have been occurring every day of every week for the last year.
“It is becoming routine to […] have half a dozen or more patients sitting in the emergency department waiting for a ward bed for more than 48 hours and, in occasional cases, 72 hours,” the source told the Sydney Morning Herald.
There have been multiple reports of bed shortages in the city’s hospitals this month, with Health Minister Jillian Skinner arguing there was an “unusual spike” in demand across some facilities.
Hospitals that fail a duty of care to their patients could face medical negligence charges if the breach results in the individual sustaining an injury.
Yet, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) has argued people’s lives are being put at risk due to cost-cutting measures and a lack of resources.
The organisation highlighted the environment at Blacktown Hospital in particular, where one nurse was forced to look after 24 patients in an emergency waiting room due to bed closures earlier this month.
Urgent changes ‘needed’
Judith Kiejda, acting general secretary of the NSWNMA, denied there had been an unusual spike in admissions.
“The Health Minister is abdicating her responsibility of delivering safe patient care and a well-resourced public health system,” she stated.
“A major concern of our members was the fact that patients who were admitted to the emergency department for care were forced to sit in chairs in the waiting room as a result of the bed closures.”
On January 9, Blacktown Hospital’s emergency department had 57 people waiting, despite the ward only having a capacity of 42. Twelve patients were left waiting for over two days, more than half of which were aged over 80.
The Sydney Morning Herald cited a 2012 federal government report that showed 10 per cent of the hospital’s patients waited more than 27 hours for admission.
This was revealed to be the second-worst facility in Australia for this particular category. However, NSW health sources claim neighbouring Mount Druitt has even more overcrowded emergency rooms.
“Our members say [eight-hour] delays have become the new norm in the past fortnight,” commented Steven Pearce, an Australian Paramedics’ Association spokesperson.