No plan ails WA health

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
AMA WA President Mark Duncan-Smith.
Camera IconAMA WA President Mark Duncan-Smith. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian, Jackson Flindell

WA’s Australian Medical Association president has backed Opposition health spokeswoman Libby Mettam’s attack on the State Government for a critical failure to plan for the future of the country health system.

A sitting of Parliamentary estimates last week revealed none of the 332 new beds to be delivered to WA’s beleaguered health system were slated for the regions.

While Health Minister Roger Cook pointed to major hospital projects in progress across the State — including a yet-to-be-started $200.1 million redevelopment of Bunbury’s health campus — AMA president Dr Mark Duncan-Smith said those beds were part of historical planning and did not cater for the steady rise in medical and acute psychiatric needs Statewide.

Dr Duncan-Smith said steady increases in patient demand across the State was not new information.

He rubbished claims COVID-19 influenced the crisis facing the system, which included cancellation of elective surgeries and serious ambulance ramping at regional hospitals.

“The lack of investment in health at an operational level, we now see that crystallise,” he said.

“There’s no slack in the system. It’s absolutely unbelievable.

“It’s got nothing to do with COVID. COVID is actually helping them out,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.

“The reason there’s increasing complexity is because they (the Health Department) are not doing the fricking work (to plan for growth) in the first place.”

Ms Mettam said the estimates committee showed the WA Government was not on the front foot or taking the health system crisis seriously.

“The McGowan Government are referring to necessary hospital upgrades which have been flagged for some time,” she said.

“The commitment for additional beds is in response to the current health crisis and it’s concerning that there is no additional capacity for hospitals in the regions given we are seeing hospital resources stretched across the State.”

In the South West, the Times understands the Bunbury redevelopment would include about 100 extra beds, although a timetable for construction was yet to be announced for the project which could take up to 10 years to finish.

Other planned redevelopments included Peel Health Campus, Geraldton Health Campus, Laverton Hospital, Tom Price Hospital and Newman Health Service.

A spokeswoman for Mr Cook said these projects would cater for regional communities.

WA Country Health Service executive director of medical services Dr Andrew Jamieson last week said feedback from an AMA survey which ranked WACHS poorly did not reveal new information.

“The AMA’s survey told us what we already knew: our health system is facing unprecedented demand and our most precious commodity – our employees – are feeling it,” Dr Jamieson said.

“While there’s no doubt these pressures extend to all health service providers, we’re particularly exposed in the bush as we’re charged with managing the daily complexities that come hand in hand with running the country’s largest, most diverse and most remote health service.”

No response to further inquiries was received from Mr Cook’s office before deadline.

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