THE number of patients stranded for hours in the corridors of the Gold Coast Hospital [GCH] has more than doubled in the past 12 months, figures leaked to The Sun have revealed.
Despite what doctors described as the horror winter of '98 and despite a litany of Beattie Government claims that the problems are solved or being addressed — the truth is that the situation at the GCH has worsened.
The GCH crisis peaked in July last year when 236 patients spent more than two hours in corridors waiting for bed placements from the Accident and Emergency department.
Current figures supplied to The Sun indicate the corridor bed number for July this year is likely to be more than 400.
The figures for 1999 are damning and show an escalation in recent months as the winter peak approaches.
There were 48 patients on corridor beds in April 1998 compared with 125 in April this year, 86 in May last year — up to 178 this year and 126 patients in June last year — up to a frightening 220 in June this year.
So far this year, 1134 patients have spent time in the corridors compared with 471 for the same period last year.
And doctors have told The Sun there is constant pressure from the administration to contain services and cut costs.
Senior sources at the GCH said district health manager Dan Bergin was called to Brisbane earlier in the year when the region's budget was running 'a few percentage points over budget and told to come in on budget or he was gone.'
"Administrative heads have already rolled in the Toowoomba district over budgets," they said "Needless to say the Gold Coast Hospital and health district came in on budget for the end of the financial year, but the ongoing cost to hospital services and staff levels is disastrous."
In August last year three senior doctors, fed up with a dangerously overcrowded July, spoke to The Sun about the disaster already happening at the Gold Coast Hospital.
The doctors who spoke to The Sun were Dr Darrell Price, consultant pediatric and adolescent physician and president of the Gold Coast Medical Association, Dr David Spain, emergency physician, director of Allamanda PrivateHospital and staff specialist at the Gold Coast Hospital and Dr David Lindsay, thoracic surgeon and former director of medicine at the Gold Coast hospital.
This prominent trio, who had the backing of the hospital's senior staff, told of 40 years of neglect by successive State Governments.
This culminated with the public hospital in the sixth largest city in the nation being grossly underfunded, under-staffed and under-equipped in 1998.
Drs Price, Spain and Lindsay spelled out the solution for the 520-bed GCH — an immediate injection of $10 million for urgent problems, then it needed to clone itself with twice the facilities and twice the personnel to deal with the public patients of this region.
The Sun mounted a major campaign which ultimately had the endorsement of the mayor, all political parties and theI biggest public rally ever seen on the Gold Coast.
One of the most insidious by-products of the campaign was the implementation of a media policy by Queensland Health for its employees which effectively gagged all staff from talking to the press about public health care problems.
GCH staff and opposition politicians are convinced the draconian gagging mechanism was introduced by the government as a response to The Sun's campaign.
Even Gold Coast AMA president Dr Darrell Price is now only able to speak on matters relating to the association which have been brought to his attention.
Dr Price was, however, able to tell The Sun this week that the situation at the GCH was worse than last year.
"No significant new services have been supplied, morale is low among the staff and most are pessimistic about the future," he said. "I don't believe anyone at the hospital feels that any of the major problems have been solved as the government is claiming. "
DESPITE 12 months of grandstanding and pontificating on the actions of the State Labor Government to address problems besetting the Gold Coast Hospital, Health Minister Wendy Edmond has delivered little more than a lot of hot air.
She claims the hospital — plagued by lack of staff, beds and other equipment caused by almost 40 years of under-funding — has been saved.
The sad fact is it has not been saved. According to senior medical staff, the situation is worse now than it was almost 12 months ago when The Sun first reported the hospital was in crisis.
Figures obtained by The Sun last week show that the number of patients stranded for hours in the hospital's corridors has more than doubled.
This is a major concern and one that gives every indication of becoming even worse.
There are other problems too, problems Mrs Edmond claims have been fixed.
Obviously Mrs Edmond is out of touch with what is really happening at our hospital.
It is time she resigned as Health Minister — or was sacked.
December 22,1998 I am very pleased that it appears we have now dispensed with the wish lists and ambit claims and we can now get on with tackling the issues in a reasonable and responsible way."
January 7,1999 "We're looking at it in a systematic and responsible way — let's all look forward to working together to meet the real needs of the Gold Coast Hospital, not just for this year but for well into the future."
March 17,1999" I can guarantee the Gold Coast Hospital has been saved."
Election speech 1998 "The Gold Coast Hospital will be my government's No 1 health priority."
August 19,1998 "We will deal with the problem as fast as we can, given the limited resources available."
November 29, 1998 "I came into office on a promise that I would listen to the people ...And I will listen to what you have to say about the Gold Coast Hospital"