The WA government has confirmed two of Perth’s tertiary hospitals — Royal Perth and Sir Charles Gairdner — faced “code yellow” internal emergencies yesterday, meaning the hospitals were struggling to cope with the volume of patients.
- Two major Perth hospitals issued ‘code yellow’ alerts yesterday
- Health Minister Roger Cook says the system is working as expected
- But the AMA is calling for a crisis summit to resolve the issue
“To have two hospitals tip into code yellow on a single day was unusual and is a sign of a system under pressure,” Health Minister Roger Cook said.
In addition, ambulances were arriving with more patients needing urgent care.
A third major hospital, Fiona Stanley, was also extremely busy, Mr Cook said.
But he also described the code yellow alerts as “business as usual” and a sign the system was responding to the pressures it faced.
“This is a precautionary business-as-usual approach, which acknowledges that we are coming under bed pressure and that all staff have to do what they can to make sure they treat the most urgent patients first and free up resources and beds when they can,” he said.
Crisis summit needed: AMA
Australian Medical Association (AMA) WA president Andrew Miller has called for a crisis summit to be held, in order to address problems he said had been ongoing for months.
Dr Miller also rejected the Health Minister’s assertion that a code yellow was “business as usual”, instead labelling it an “internal disaster”.
“A code yellow, with respect to the Minister, is not business as usual. A code yellow means that we have to stop business as usual,” he said.
“[It] should probably be called more often, according to the staff who work in these emergency departments.
The Health Department said Perth metropolitan hospitals were extremely busy right now, with many very sick patients coming through the doors.
The department said it was causing problems with “patient flow” as many people required beds for an extended period of time.
Its director-general David Russell-Weisz said increasing mental health and general demand, plus a significantly high number of long-stay patients, were adding to the problem.
“We have got bed blockage in some of our facilities where we can’t get some of our long-stay patients out,” he said.
Dr Russel-Weisz said 36 beds were being opened at Royal Perth Hospital as soon as possible, on top of 10 extra beds already opened at Osborne Park Hospital.
Situation ‘disgraceful’, Liberals say
Newly appointed WA Liberal Leader David Honey said Perth’s hospitals had been in crisis for months.
“We’ve got patients, critical patients, who are supposed to be in the emergency wards and they’re being kept alive in ambulances and in the corridors of the hospitals. That’s disgraceful,” Dr Honey said.
He said there were hundreds of hospital beds free, but not enough staff to make them available for patients to access.
He also said border closures had resulted in fewer overseas doctors being able to work in Australia, which had led to a shortage.
Mr Cook agreed and said there was not the typical flow of nurses and doctors from overseas, saying that led to more patients becoming acute and seeking care at an emergency department because the wait times for GPs were so long.
“We’re in more of a GP crisis, to be perfectly frank,” he said.
But Dr Miller said the Minister’s statement about GPs was an “excuse”.
“It’s a lie to say that the people who are ramped in ambulances out the front of the hospital could go to a GP. They can’t, they’re too sick to sit on a chair,” he said.
Mental health workers strike
Meanwhile, more than 100 mental health workers in Perth took part in a strike today in order to secure more funding for child mental health services.
Clinical psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists from eight services took part in the industrial action, along with staff from the Perth Children’s Hospital mental health ward.
Organisers said most of the strikes were being done out of the media’s sight because employees feared for their jobs.
The strike follows ongoing complaints about a lack of support for children and young people with mental illness, plus a major increase in waiting times.
The issue has.
The under-funded and under-resourced system was also, according to WA’s chief psychiatrist.
Health Services Union WA secretary Naomi McCrae said a report into Kate Savage’s death made seven recommendations, but only one had been actioned.
“One of the recommendations was an immediate uplift in staff and that has not occurred, and we cannot wait until the end of another review for just staff,” she said.
She said mental health workers feared more children would die.
At the Swan Valley child and adolescent mental health service in Perth’s east, where workers walked off the job, Ms McCrae said in March alone, staff handled 92 referrals.
“That is too much for this service to meet,” she said.
Ms McCrae said taking industrial action was the “last resort,” but workers were desperate for action to be taken.