Four hospitals in northern Queensland – Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and Mount Isa – issued “code yellow” warnings on Tuesday, asking paramedics to reroute their ambulances as their beds approached capacity.
Australian College for Emergency Medicine president John Bonning told The Australian the four code yellow alarms in one day was “unprecedented”, declaring the state’s hospitals are in “crisis”.
“EDs are full, wards are full, ambulances are ramped and there are not enough staff,” he said.
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Cairns Hospital was at 94 per cent capacity when it raised the alarm on Tuesday, while Mount Isa’s 64 beds were all being used during the night.
Mackay Base Hospital also reached capacity, according to The Australian, while chief medical officer Niall Small in Townsville warned their emergency declaration would not likely be lifted until Wednesday night.
AMA Queensland Ramping Roundtable chair Dr Kim Hansen said health workers can already see the “pressure” that hospitals are under right now.
“It’s been building over the past 12 months and we can see that we’re not going to cope if we have a COVID outbreak up here in Queensland,” she told 4BC Breakfast with Neil Breen on Tuesday.
Dr Hansen said the number of patients presenting to emergency departments have gone up 10 to 20 per cent in a lot of hospitals across the state.
Northern Queensland’s four largest hospitals issue ‘code yellow’ alarms
“And that’s without COVID,” she said.
“So the emergency departments are full, and hospitals are full, and we just don’t see how we’re going to manage if we have to deal with a COVID outbreak as well.”
Dr Hansen suggested “you could say we haven’t kept up” with the unprecedented demand over the past 12 months.
“So it’s time for action now so we can try and be ready for when we do open up, and there will be COVID cases in the community,” she said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk last week warned health systems across the state may not be able to cope if coronavirus run rampant in the community – even with high vaccination rates.
“Not only do we need to make sure that we get as many people vaccinated as possible – there’s another big part to this story and that is to make sure that the hospitals can deal with the capacity,” she said.
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She also called on the Morrison government to boost hospital funding to increase the system’s capacity.
“The hospitals need increased capacity and that requires additional federal government funding for the growth in the (case) numbers that we will see,” she said.
“We need to make sure that we get the people vaccinated and the hospitals prepared. And until you do both of those, it would be irresponsible to put the whole country at risk.
“And I’m not going to put Queenslanders at risk until both of those issues are sorted out.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison fired back on breakfast TV on Tuesday morning, accusing the Queensland Premier of trying to “hold the federal government to ransom”.
“I mean, to go down this point and say ‘Well, you know, I’m going to hold the federal government to ransom and seek to extort money from them on the basis of COVID,” Mr Morrison said.
“I just don’t think it is the right way to go. We’ve been working with them constructively.”
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