Nadine Cotton says she has never seen the Royal’s emergency department so busy. (ABC News: Alexandra Humphries)
A Tasmanian mother says she was shocked by her experience in the Royal Hobart Hospital’s emergency department, seeing ambulances “everywhere” and patients lined up along corridors on stretchers.
Nadine Cotton’s three-year-old daughter Indiana suffers from frequent asthma attacks that require treatment in the emergency department.
On Tuesday, an attack forced the family to call an ambulance which took them to hospital after an assessment by paramedics just after midday.
“As they were driving down the ramp there were ambulances everywhere,” Ms Cotton said.
“We got to the door, and there was no room at all for us to even go in and wait in the first hallway.
“There were like six other beds lined up against the wall, and they were all elderly people. A bloke said he had been sitting there for five hours waiting.”
Ms Cotton said people were vomiting and having their catheters changed without any privacy, which prompted her to post a photo of the situation on Facebook.
“I just snapped the picture because it was a big shock to me,” she said.
“Never have I even seen it like that. Usually, we’re taken in and we’re into the [resuscitation] part within five minutes because she can go downhill really quick, but yesterday was terrible.
“We go there so often and, like I said, it’s busy, but it’s never that level of busy.”
Ms Cotton said paramedics were apologising to patients throughout their ordeal.
“I said to them, ‘It’s not your fault — the Government needs to have a long, hard look and do something’.”
Ms Cotton and Indiana left the hospital at about 7:00pm on Tuesday with a treatment plan to keep space available for other patients.
School holiday staffing shortages at both Hobart Private and Calvary hospitals have been blamed for increased demand at the Royal, which has been operating at level four since Monday.
Hobart Private closed its medical ward because of shortages while Calvary was on temporary ambulance bypass on Tuesday which has since been cancelled.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson said he had contacted Hobart’s private hospitals to ask them to address their workforce issues.
“It’s not fair, and it’s not right, that the Royal Hobart Hospital — we never close our doors — should carry the load of three hospitals,” he said.
“If you think about the privately insured community in southern Tasmania, they have a reasonable expectation that their healthcare needs can be met by the private hospitals.”
‘People are dying when the money is there’
Concerns have been aired that GST revenue given to Tasmania based on the average standard of healthcare provided across Australia was not being put into the health budget.
Health policy analyst Martyn Goddard said the State Government had diverted $1.6 billion in health-related GST away from the sector to other areas of the budget since coming to power in 2014.
He said research suggested that 80 people a year would die waiting for beds in hospitals in Tasmania.
But Mr Ferguson said GST payments were not tied, and did not have to be spent in any particular area.
He said the Tasmanian Government spent 30 per cent of its total budget on health.
Royal Hobart Hospital staff association chairman Frank Nicklason said the situation was making it difficult to care for patients properly.
“This morning I spoke to a very experienced, very senior medical colleague, and there was agitation in his voice that I hadn’t heard before,” Dr Nicklason said.
“It’s terrible. It’s a huge ethical problem to think that people are dying when the money is there.
“The only thing that’s not there is the care and consideration for people who are vulnerable and dependent on the hospital.”