Hospitals face record-breaking pressure

Dandenong Hospital Emergency Department. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

By Marcus Uhe and Cam Lucadou-Wells

The State Government has defended the latest Victorian Health Department quarterly performance data for March to June 2022, which shows a system under unprecedented pressure.

Overdue wait times (days) for patients requiring semi-urgent (category two) surgery have skyrocketed across hospitals in the South East from 12 months ago.

Dandenong Hospital’s wait times rose from 164 days to 244 days, and Monash Medical Centre up from 130 days to 192 days.

Cranbourne Integrated Care Centre wait times nearly tripled to 160 days and Casey Hospital patients wait times nearly doubled to 200 days.

The Government attributed the numbers to a surge in demand for services, with hospital emergency department presentations increasing by 5.1 per cent from the previous quarter as the state continues to battle lingering Covid-19 effects, such as illness and workforce shortages.

Median wait times at South East emergency departments also rose significantly.

At Dandenong Hospital emergency department, 90th percentile waiting times were 134 minutes. Monash Medical Centre’s rose to more than two-and-a-half hours and Casey Hospital nearly three hours.

Ambulance Victoria also continues to break records, having recorded their third consecutive busiest quarter.

“We’re in the midst of a record-breaking period of demand on our health system, but this latest data shows that we are weathering the storm and building a system that will be stronger than ever moving forward,” Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said on Saturday 6 August.

“All our healthcare workers are doing an incredible job under challenging circumstances – and this government is ensuring they have all the support they need to give Victorians the care they deserve faster.”

In better news, the number of urgent (category one) surgery patients awaiting on operation at Casey hospital and Dandenong hospital has fallen since March.

The government’s $1.5 billion Covid Catch-Up Plan includes upskilling nurses, theatre and sterilisation technicians.

It is also training and recruiting up to 7000 extra healthcare workers.

But Shadow Health and Ambulance Services Minister Georgie Crozier said not enough was being done to fix the crisis.

“Politics, spin and cover-ups won’t fix the health crisis. Victorians need real solutions to cut the surgery waitlist and give people the care they deserve,” Ms Crozier said.