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North West health staff, services celebrated for five-year achievements

30 July 2021

A five-year snapshot of North West 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, 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.

“We also have a high number of patients spending long periods of time in hospitals while they wait for aged care or disability packages, leading to significant impact on availability of hospital beds. Importantly, hospital is not an appropriate alternative to home or a residential care for the most vulnerable in our society who deserve better.

“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 North West HHS’s hard-working staff and the health services for these achievements.”

Acting CE Dr Karen Murphy said outpatient appointments decreased by 12.44 per cent (from 57,907 to 50,706) as a result of a number of factors including COVID and travel restrictions.

“Visiting outpatient services were reduced and some clinics were reverted to Telehealth during this period, however some were not available at all. Room availability in the department is also extremely limited due to an increase in demand for services, so occasionally services are not able to be held,” Dr Murphy said.

“There was also a SHIP project implementation of ‘low activity weeks’ where Outpatient clinics were reduced to encourage staff to take leave to reduce excess leave balances.”

Between 2015-16 and 2020-21 North West HHS’s hospitals reported:

  • 77 per cent increase in emergency department presentations (from more than 30,570 to more than 54,070)
  • 45 per cent increase in surgeries performed (from more than 960 to more than 1,411)
  • Continued delivering more than 50,000 outpatient appointments each year.
  • Continued delivering more than 350 babies each year.

In the same period, North West HHS’s annual operating budget had increased from $148 million to more than $199 million, a 34 per cent growth.

The HHS’s total workforce has grown from 672 to 787 people (a 17 per cent increase), including 52 to 70 doctors, 269 to 332 nurses and 19 to 25 midwives.

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

Last updated: 30 July 2021