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Patients ‘put in cupboards’: Staff detail ‘inhumane’ conditions at WA hospitals

Liam Bartlett
Article image for Patients ‘put in cupboards’: Staff detail ‘inhumane’ conditions at WA hospitals

The Australian Medical Association and the Australian Nurses Federation say the current hospital crisis in WA is not an isolated incident and has been building for months.

All three major hospitals in Perth, including Royal Perth, Fiona Stanley and Sir Charles Gairdner have been in code yellow at some point in the past few days.

A code yellow is defined as an “internal disaster”, and means patients can only be admitted if they are suffering a life-threatening emergency.

AMA WA Vice President and Director of Emergency Medicine at Royal Perth Hospital, Dr David McCoubrie, said staff are at breaking point.

“Staff do feel this could be called more often because we are overwhelmed every day, and we are having conditions like this every day,” he told 6PR’s Liam Bartlett.

“Business as usual for us now, is managing what feels like a rolling crisis.

“The waits in the waiting room are absolutely appalling, we have people waiting seven or eight hours to be seen.

“That is demoralizing for staff, staff feel it is inhumane the way that the system is operating at the moment, and staff feel that it is preventable.

He described the health crisis as the “tip of the iceberg” with ambulance ramping at record level for months.

“The system appears to have hit the wall, and the record ramping and overcrowding for over six months has been appalling.

“Often it means there are eight to 10 people locked on our ramps unable to get in, with little prospect of capacity being made.”

The Director General of WA Health said the issue stems from too many mental health patients in emergency departments.

But Dr McCoubrie believes it’s a budget issue.

“There could be as many as 150 beds in the system that are closed, and they are closed because there is not a budget to open them,” he said.

“We believe WA is 450 beds behind the national average per capita.”

The AMA is pushing for another emergency health summit to be held with chief policy makers to deal with the growing crisis.

“I think the WA community expect more, they want to be able to rely on the health system in their hour of need,” Dr McCoubrie said.

“It’s heartbreaking for staff.”

State secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation, Mark Olson, echoed the AMA’s calls and said nurses are being forced to work short staffed.

“There is a lot of pressure from the hospital executives to make each ward take an extra two patients above their capacity,” he said.

“There is no actual places for those patients, they are put in cupboards, at the end of corridors, and rooms that are often used for visitors.

“The reality is we have empty beds in these hospitals, you can’t staff those beds because the government won’t allow us to have the number of nurses required to staff those beds.”

Click play to hear more. 

(Photo: iStock by Getty Images.) 

Liam Bartlett