Skip links and keyboard navigation

Cairns and Hinterland health staff, services celebrated for five-year achievements

30 July 2021

A five-year snapshot of Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service highlights the achievements of hospitals and staff in managing significant increases in emergency department presentations and surgeries.

Queensland Health Director General Dr John Wakefield said several factors, including population growth, aging population, falling private health insurance rates, increasing, and more recently, the global pandemic, were responsible for the high demand on health services.

“COVID-19 has had a severe impact on our hospitals in the past 18 months,” Dr Wakefield said.

“Whilst we have been successful in minimising community transmission of COVID-19, it was necessary to divert significant staffing into our public health response, testing, tracking and tracing, hotel quarantine, and mass vaccination”.

“There has also been a continued surge in demand for public health services over the past five years, including an extraordinary rise in emergency department presentations and referrals to specialist outpatient services”.

“We are also performing more surgeries as the state’s rate of chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes and heart disease goes up. A growing number of Queenslanders are also ditching their private health insurance and turning to the public health system for treatment.

“While we have significantly increased funding and hired more staff to support both our pandemic response and the everyday delivery of healthcare, it’s no secret the pressure placed on our facilities has been immense.

“In spite of the constant pressure of dealing with unstoppable demand growth, our staff work 24/7 and do an amazing job in providing world class healthcare to all Queenslanders, no matter where they live.

“I commend and celebrate Cairns and Hinterland HHS’s hard-working staff and the health services for these achievements.”

The Cairns hospital also plays an important role providing specialist service to the Torres and Cape.

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service chief executive Tina Chinery said the data reflected natural population growth in the Far North during the past five years and demands for health services increasing across the region.

“This year has been one of our busiest on record,” she said.

“Earlier this year, Cairns Hospital’s Emergency Department experiencing its busiest day in history, on the 16th February 2021, with 286 presentations in just 24 hours. We have seen a significant increase in trauma aa well as mental health presentations.”

“We are seeing more patients requiring our services and expertise more than ever before.

“This is why we have undertaken significant clinical services planning and robust master planning to inform solutions to the health service capacity challenges.

“To plan for future growth, we have immediate and medium-term solutions rolling out over the next year or so – including a $26.4 million expansion of the Cairns Hospital Emergency Department. Early construction on this is on track to commence in September.

“As part of our commitment to become the Cairns University Hospital we are well progressed in the $1.5 million preliminary business case which includes strategies to optimise Cairns Hospital and to build the Cairns Health and Innovation Centre, which will free up capacity for more clinical services.”

Between 2015-16 and 2020-21 Cairns and Hinterland HHS’s hospitals reported:

  • 30 per cent increase in emergency department presentations (from more than 129,810 to more than 168,450).
  • 21 per cent increase in surgeries performed (from more than 10,090 to more than 12,180)
  • 25 per cent increase in outpatient appointments (from more than 251,920 to more than 314,880)
  • Continued delivering more than 2,500 babies each year, including in private facilities in the region.

In the same period, Cairns and Hinterland HHS’s annual operating budget had increased from $712 million to more than $1.05 billion, a 47 per cent growth.

The HHS’s total workforce has grown from 4,826 to 5,531 people (an almost 15 per cent increase), including 513 to 675 doctors, 2,050 to 2,337 nurses and 132 to 163 midwives.

Quarterly performance data for Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service has been released today, available on the website here.

Last updated: 30 July 2021