Election debate needs to focus on real issues affecting patients in West Australia

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) today called on WA politicians to start focusing on the issues that really affect public health.

“The argument around stand alone clinics, after hours services and/or urgent care centres is unlikely to provide much benefit to WA patients,” said ACEM President Professor Tony Lawler, “The fact is, there’s little evidence any of these approaches have any meaningful effect on the level of overcrowding that we’re seeing in our hospitals and emergency departments.”

The real issue, Professor Lawler said, remains access block.

“When patients have to stay longer in the emergency department (ED) because there aren’t beds in wards of the hospital, they can suffer dramatically poorer health outcomes,” he said, “Addressing access block should be the absolute priority for those involved in the rolling out of health reforms across states and territories in Australia.”

Chair of the ACEM Western Australia Faculty A/Prof David Mountain called on both sides of politics to focus on addressing the real issues impacting hospitals in Perth and across the state.

“West Australians need access to properly staffed and resourced emergency departments regardless of who is in Government,” he said, “This is critically important given the clear long-term trend in WA of growing ED patient presentations, many of whom are older with more complex health problems.”

A recent Australian three-year study – looking at the experiences of over 13,000 patients aged over 50 – found that patients who waited more than four hours to be transferred out of the ED to a hospital bed were 51% more likely to die than people who waited less than four hours.

“We don’t need more of the short-sighted, ineffective and unproven measures that we’ve seen put forward over the past few years, none of which have led to lasting improvement,” A/Prof Mountain said, “What we need is real action around the two core issues of hospital funding and increased bed capacity, because it’s unacceptable to run a healthcare system that puts patient’s lives at risk.”