When WA’s health system is under this much strain, are we really safe? | AMA (WA)

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AMA (WA) | Election Checklist

When WA’s health system is under this much strain, are we really safe?

Tuesday March 2, 2021

With the Labor Party under Premier Mark McGowan likely returning to government with a landslide victory and a potentially unprecedented majority on March 13, it’s vital the public understand what that might mean for WA’s health system.

Australian Medical Association (WA) President Dr Andrew Miller was the first to propose strict state border controls at a time when the Government said it was not possible. He has always acknowledged the capabilities of WA’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Andrew Robertson.

However, Dr Miller has also warned about the broader issues for the health system.

“It has been quite clear since before the pandemic that the system is under considerable stress,” he said.

“Thankfully there has been no community spread but doctors are under no illusions as to what would happen if COVID were to hit us as it has so many places.

“In a recent survey, 63 per cent of our doctors said they did not think WA’s health system could cope with a significant outbreak of COVID-19.

“That’s very worrying in a wealthy state with no virus to deal with at present.”

But WA isn’t even prepared for business as usual. Remarkably, at the end of a month that included a one-week lockdown and a further week of significant restrictions, the February all-time record for access block to emergency departments, because hospitals are full, will still easily be smashed.

“How can it be that our emergency departments are so chronically ill-prepared for handling the usual influx of patients, let alone the reduced activity you’d expect with one week of total lockdown?” Dr Miller said.

“The Premier has given all sorts of reasons our emergency departments are such a mess, from mental health admissions to COVID-19 cleaning.

“But none of them wash and all those issues are furphies according to the frontline staff.

“There’s only one way to fix this mess and that’s to open more hospital beds. The AMA (WA) is advocating for an additional 440 beds to be opened, in addition to 100 emergency beds.

“At the same time, we need a permanent medical workforce. Every other doctor in Australia has the opportunity to obtain permanent employment in the public system except WA. It’s unacceptable and leads to cultural malaise.

“The AMA (WA) is also calling on the Government to make use of many more of the nurses graduating by committing to 500 additional nurses each year, rather than leaving them unemployed.”

Dr Miller urged West Australians to visit the AMA (WA) www.amawa.com.au for the COVID-19 Checklist.

“The Checklist shows our top recommendations to make sure we both have the right conditions to deal with COVID-19 and fix the health system.

“Additionally, it gives a comparison of the commitments made by our political parties to health.

“While it’s clear the Labor Party will be returned at the State Election, it is still vital that every West Australian exercises their vote with a full comprehension of the issues they will face over the next four years.

“There is absolutely no reason why West Australians should not have their health as well as their wealth in a state as prosperous as ours.

“The cost of implementation of the COVID-19 Checklist is nothing like the cost of future lockdowns or increasing hospital congestion.

“It’s nothing like the cost of your worry over your grandmother waiting to get a hospital bed after a fall, or fear of not getting prompt attention to your sick child.

“Those are costs that no one wants to bear and the Government can afford to pay with our taxes.

“The AMA (WA) will continue to advocate for these improvements to the health system in the interests of all West Australians.

“When you vote in the State Election, make sure you consider your health.”