Hospitals "ill prepared" for reopening, AMA says

Hospitals "ill prepared" for reopening, AMA says

Australian hospitals are not prepared to cope with plans for easing COVID-19 restrictions, according to the Australian Medical Association (AMA) which has today called for new modelling based on staffing capacity to guide reopening plans.

In a dire warning to leaders, the AMA has written to the Prime Minister, state premiers and chief ministers telling them hospitals, and the people who work in them, are in danger of being locked into a “permanent cycle of crisis”.

The letter, from AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid, said the hospital system would be overwhelmed with an easing of restrictions - even with increased vaccination rates.

“Even pre-COVID, emergency departments were full, ambulances ramped, and waiting times for elective surgery too long.” Dr Khorshid said.

“While National Cabinet is considering the cost of expanding intensive care capacity for an expected COVID surge, a funding top-up alone won’t cut it. The Commonwealth will need to address the longer-term public hospital funding crisis.

“We must urgently prepare our health system before opening up and to do that we need new modelling based on our hospitals’ ability to cope with the associated increase in caseload.”

Dr Khorshid said new modelling should be commissioned to contemplate all aspects of the impact of COVID-19 on Australian hospital’s and the primary care sector.

“Staffing, for instance, is already a significant problem right across the health sector, exacerbated by international border closures,” Dr Khorshid said.

“Modelling should also contemplate the cost, efficiency impact and supply of enhanced PPE and infection controls, and the inevitable reduction in patient throughput, especially where COVID-19 positive and negative patients are treated at the same facility.

“The practice of furloughing staff exposed to COVID-19 won’t be sustainable once caseloads increase and this is one of the reasons the AMA called for vaccination to be mandated for all employees and contractors in hospitals and community health settings.”

The president also said modelling may show a higher level of vaccination is required to ensure the hospital sector remains functional once restrictions are fully eased.

“The AMA believes a vaccination rate higher than 80 per cent of the adult population is likely to be required to avoid repeated lockdowns given the existing constraints on hospital capacity and staffing,” Dr Khorshid said. 

“If we throw open the doors to COVID we risk seeing our public hospitals collapse and part of this stems from a long-term lack of investment in public hospital capacity by state and federal governments.

“Our hospitals are not starting from a position of strength. Far from it. As well as ambulance ramping, we have the lowest bed-to-patient ratio in decades, our emergency and elective performance continues to decline, and our doctors and nurses continue to barely cope with their workloads and the constraints of the system.”

Updated at 10.19am AEST on 2 September 2021.


This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

Click here to go to Employment Hero’s Covid-19 Resource Hub for essential resources to help employers, managers and HR specialists navigate the ongoing pandemic. 


 

Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support

How communications technology can raise the bar on customer service, employee experience
Partner Content
From capturing feedback early to providing messages with a higher rate of cut-through, ...
Advertisement

Related Stories

Insurance Council declares ongoing NSW floods a ‘significant event’

Insurance Council declares ongoing NSW floods a ‘significant event’

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has activated its prelimin...

Creditors looking to wind up Victory Offices owed $3.5m in overdue debts

Creditors looking to wind up Victory Offices owed $3.5m in overdue debts

Two creditors owed more than what Victory Offices (ASX: VOL) is wor...

Bubs to raise $63m to support fast-tracked US growth spurt

Bubs to raise $63m to support fast-tracked US growth spurt

A $63 million equity raise to support growth opportunities in the U...

Sydney startup upcover raises $4.7m to disrupt "overcomplicated" insurance landscape

Sydney startup upcover raises $4.7m to disrupt "overcomplicated" insurance landscape

From its origins catering to the precarious gig economy with simpli...