President’s Blog: Doubling downward spiral | AMA (WA)


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President’s Blog: Doubling downward spiral

Friday September 9, 2022

Dr Mark Duncan-Smith, AMA (WA) President

He doubles down, he triples down, but it’s the downward spiral of the health system that should be concerning Premier Mark McGowan.

On Monday, Mr McGowan responded to a series of leaked emails from management at Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH), suggesting nurse shortages were threatening to compromise the care given to seriously ill babies in the neonatal intensive care ward

As reported by the ABC:

 Mr McGowan also blamed failures in the Commonwealth-run primary care system.

 He said people were turning to hospital emergency departments because of a reduction in bulk-billing among general practitioners and some practices refusing to see respiratory patients.

 “I think what is a large part of the problem, is the relationship between the Commonwealth health system and the state health system,” he said.

 “In that, if you want to go to a GP these days, very few bulk-bill and a lot won’t see respiratory cases, therefore people are going into the emergency departments.

 “And that is putting pressure on our hospital system, when they actually should be dealt with by a general practitioner.”

It is disappointing that the Premier thinks so little of our hard-working GPs who were the backbone of the COVID-19 response, that he is now blaming them for our failing state health system.

This is yet another example of the McGowan Government’s attempts to blame everyone but themselves for their own poor stewardship of healthcare in this State over the last five years.

Last week, Mr McGowan was adamant he had not received advice to suggest PCH wasn’t properly staffed on the night Aishwarya Aswath died, responding to evidence of chronic staff shortages at the inquest into her death.

“The health advice I received was on the night in question the number of staff … was in accordance with what was ordinarily expected on duty on that night,” he told reporters.

“That was the advice I’ve received. I’ve received no different advice.”

As I told the media at the time: “Certainly the statements of the Premier in April last year, suggesting that the emergency department was actually overstaffed, were clearly patently wrong,”

The Premier should produce the evidence and statistics behind the claims about GPs that he has made, or issue an immediate apology to all GPs. He cannot and should not fall back on the excuse that he was poorly advised as a recurring reason that people cannot trust what comes out of his mouth. Recent revelations should have taught him that.

The Premier should show us the evidence so we can trust what he says. Claiming he was told GPs were not seeing respiratory patients is not evidence, that is hearsay and as a lawyer he should know that.

If Mr McGowan is relying on the excuse that someone has told him, can he at least salvage some semblance of credibility by assuring the public that it is not the same person who advised him about the staffing levels at PCH?

During COVID, GPs have run the respiratory clinics, seen screened patients with colds and flu, taken care of our aged care population, and some GPs are vulnerable themselves.

In any case, GP-type patients presenting to an emergency department would go to the minor treatment area and therefore do not need a bed, do not get admitted, do not cause bed block and therefore do not cause ramping. They also would have nothing to do with record elective surgery waitlists.

GPs, and COVID for that matter, are not responsible for the last five years of a slow and steady, predictable increase in ramping and elective surgery waitlists to now record levels. These poor KPIs are the direct response of the McGowan Government running health into the ground with excessive and prolonged austerity to the point of compromising safety.

If he ever gets up from doubling down, I call on the Premier to put up, or apologise.