A five-year snapshot of Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service highlights the achievements of hospitals and staff in managing significant increases in emergency department presentations and surgeries.
Queensland Health Director General Dr John Wakefield said several factors, including population growth, aging population, falling private health insurance rates, and more recently, the global pandemic, were responsible for the high demand on health services.
“COVID-19 has had a severe impact on our hospitals in the past 18 months,” Dr Wakefield said.
“Whilst we have been successful in minimising community transmission of COVID-19, it was necessary to divert significant staffing into our public health response, testing, tracking and tracing, hotel quarantine, and mass vaccination”.
“There has also been a continued surge in demand for public health services over the past five years, including an extraordinary rise in emergency department presentations and referrals to specialist outpatient services”.
“We are also performing more surgeries as the state’s rate of chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes and heart disease goes up. A growing number of Queenslanders are also ditching their private health insurance and turning to the public health system for treatment.
“We also have a high number of patients spending long periods of time in hospitals while they wait for aged care or disability packages, leading to significant impact on availability of hospital beds. Importantly, hospital is not an appropriate alternative to home or a residential care for the most vulnerable in our society who deserve better.
“While we have significantly increased funding and hired more staff to support both our pandemic response and the everyday delivery of healthcare, it’s no secret the pressure placed on our facilities has been immense.
“In spite of the constant pressure of dealing with unstoppable demand growth, our staff work 24/7 and do an amazing job in providing world class healthcare to all Queenslanders, no matter where they live.
“I commend and celebrate Wide Bay HHS’s hard-working staff and the health services for these achievements.”
Wide Bay HHS Chief Executive Debbie Carroll said the growth in demand both in numbers and the acuity of patients was creating challenges for local health services in the region.
“In only five years we’ve experienced a huge growth in demand for local health services resulting in significant increases in outpatient appointments and emergency department presentations,” Ms Carroll said.
“That increase is not only the result of our region’s population growth, but also the ageing of our population that is resulting in more people with chronic illnesses that require more acute care.
“Those factors put immense pressure on our resources and impact on waiting times, but our teams have done remarkably well to manage the situation and ensure our patients are seen as quickly as possible.
“Wide Bay HHS has also invested in models of care to keep patients out of hospital such as our Integrated Care, Transition Care and Hospital In The Home services, but welcomes any additional services in the community that would provide appropriate support to people that keeps them from requiring a stay in hospital.”
Between 2015-16 and 2020-21 Wide Bay HHS’s hospitals reported:
- 24 per cent increase in emergency department presentations (from more than 105,090 to more than 131,090)
- Six per cent increase in surgeries performed (from more than 7,160 to more than 7,600)
- 52 per cent increase in outpatient appointments (from more than 145,440 to more than 224,350)
- Continued delivering more than 1,500 babies each year, including private facilities in the region.).
In the same period, Wide Bay HHS’s annual operating budget had increased from $489 million to more than $692 million, a 41 per cent growth.
The HHS’s total workforce has grown from 2,922 to 3,433 people (17.5% increase), including 366 to 437 doctors, 1,164 to 1,394 nurses and 72 to 86 midwives.
Quarterly performance data for Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service has been released today, available on the website here.