State & Federal Ministers meet to prioritise health care and help fix bed block

Patients who are stuck in hospitals while waiting for NDIS support or a place in an aged care facility will be a key focus ahead of a meeting of the Federal, State and Territory Health Ministers on Friday.

South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton will travel to Canberra to discuss the issue and help find solutions to discharge patients who no longer need hospital care, which will free up beds and reduce pressure on the health system.

Bed block, which occurs when patients admitted from emergency departments cannot be moved to hospital beds because they are occupied, is a major factor in EDs becoming clogged and leaving no room for patients transported by ambulance – which ultimately leads to ramping.

New SA Health data reveals hundreds of patients who should be discharged are “stranded” in metro hospitals, instead of receiving federally-funded care in the community.

On 10 June 2022 there were 282 NDIS patients in metro hospitals, with 129 of those patients ready to be discharged. Of those, 66 patients had been stuck in hospital for more than 100 days after they should have been discharged.

Similarly, on 17 February 2022 there were 53 patients ready for discharge who were waiting for a place in a residential aged care facility, and 43 of those patients were still waiting for discharge a week later.

Bed block in hospitals has been compounded by a lack of capacity, with the former Government failing to open enough beds and employ enough doctors and nurses to meet growing demand.

Health Ministers will also focus on national funding of public hospitals, workforce shortages, and how primary care can relieve pressure on hospitals.

The Malinauskas Labor Government is investing $2.4 billion extra in the health system to rebuild hospitals and create more capacity after four years of neglect under the Liberals.


Attributable to Chris Picton

Every day our public hospitals are caring for patients who should not be in hospital.

These patients no longer require hospital care and are ready to be discharged, but they are stuck in hospitals waiting on NDIS support or a place in a residential aged care facility. These poor patients are literally “stranded”.

Our hard-working hospital staff of course give these people the best possible care but, because they can’t be discharged, staff can’t move patients into hospital beds from the emergency department.

This blockage sets off a chain effect through our health system: ED patients can’t move into hospital beds, EDs are blocked with patients, and ambos can’t bring their patients into the ED.

Ultimately this means that ambulances are forced to ramp outside EDs with their patients waiting on ED treatment and care.

We want to work closely with the new Federal Government and with other states and territories to get our stranded patients the care and support they need outside of hospital and work to reduce ramping – and this meeting presents a huge opportunity to try and resolve some of those issues.

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