Hospitals in the state have been advised to postpone about half of all non-essential elective surgeries despite there being no COVID-19 outbreak in Western Australia, The Australian reported on Monday.
The hospital system is under growing pressure especially in Perth’s emergency departments, prompting the McGowan government to inform public hospitals in the city to delay category two and three elective surgeries for at least a month.
Mr McGowan said there had been a “fair degree of sickness” among hospital staff who had then been directed not to attend work.
He also pointed to a “large number of respiratory illnesses” in the community which on top of staff shortages had caused the hospital system to come under duress.
“That’s putting pressure both in terms of attendances at emergency departments and also staff not attending work because we’ve asked people to go if they’re unwell,” Mr McGowan said.
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“All those things are combining with the anxiety generated by COVID-19 into a situation that’s putting a lot of pressure on our hospitals.”
But the Premier also pointed the finger at the Commonwealth-run NDIS and aged care programs which have also contributed to higher hospital admissions.
“There are actually a number of people occupying hospital beds as we speak who should actually be managed by the NDIS and a number of others who should be in aged care,” he said.
“So there’s actually in the hundreds who we can’t find spots for in those areas… which is putting huge pressure on the system”.
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But the Australian Medical Association said the problem was systemic and had not been caused by an uptick in recent demand.
“Ramping has been increasing by a thousand hours per month per year for the last four years,” WA AMA President Mark Duncan-Smith said.
Ramping is where extreme pressure on a hospital’s emergency department forces paramedics to continue care instead of handing patients over to the ED.
“When the McGowan government took over in 2017 it was 1,000 hours a month and it’s now up to 6,000 hours a month … it’s just been increasing steadily,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.
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“This isn’t recent demand, and the medical system is on its knees.
“We would be in large amounts of trouble because there’s no capacity in the system because of chronic underfunding over the last four years,” he said.
Mr McGowan criticised and demanded the peak doctors’ body “stop scaremongering”.
“We have a great health system by world standards but it’s under pressure because of all those reasons I’ve just said,” he said.

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