Opposition accuses Health Minister of ignoring LGH warnings

The Tasmanian Health Service says the influenza A outbreak on ward 6D at the Launceston General Hospital is improving.

However, the state government has come under fire, with the opposition accusing Health Minister Michael Ferguson of ignoring warnings the hospital would struggle to cope when the flu season hit.

Acting Health Minister Peter Gutwein said there were always increased pressures on hospitals in winter.

“We will not be lectured by HACSU or Labor who closed beds we have now reopened,” he said.

Opposition Leader Rebecca White said Mr Ferguson was warned last August, when emergency care at the LGH and Royal Hobart Hospital were reviewed, that pressure on the state's hospitals would increase.

“He chose to hide that report in a bottom drawer for six months until he was forced to release it under Right To Information,” she said.

“The report could not have been clearer that there were systematic problems at both hospitals and that the pressure would increase once we entered flu season unless he took action.”

On Tuesday, health unions said the LGH was in “chaos”, with patients waiting up to four days to be moved to an acute ward.

“This is what we’ve been talking about for months, with the situations we were already having, and we hadn’t even reached the peak time for influenza outbreaks, and now that they’ve happened, the system just cannot cope,” Health and Community Services Union assistant state secretary Robbie Moore said.

“There were no beds in the Emergency Department, which caused the flow-on ramping that occurred of ambulances.”

By Tuesday, there were six confirmed cases of influenza A and two confirmed cases of norovirus on ward 6D. A further four patients were under review for the flu and a further one was being tested for the gastro bug.

A Tasmanian Health Service spokesman said on Wednesday the situation was improving in the ward, and the decision to open 6D to admissions would be made soon.

Mr Gutwein said the government had put in place “a number of measures to deal with increased pressures”.

“Under 'patients first’, the LGH operates an escalation plan, which allows more staff to be brought in, and patients ready to be discharged leave the hospital when increased demand arises.

“This is also the reason the government reopened the 12-bed ward 4D last year - the ward closed by Labor.

“We also increased the number of ward beds to 15 and then 19, in the 2017-18 budget, to meet growing demand. These beds are helping patient flow.

“And over the last twelve months, ambulance ramping at the LGH was as its lowest level in at least five years – a 40 per cent reduction in hours ramped compared to 2012-13.”

This story Opposition says LGH flu season ‘chaos’ no surprise first appeared on The Examiner.