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South West HHS staff, services celebrated for five-year achievements

30 July 2021

A five-year snapshot of South 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.

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

South West Hospital and Health Service Acting Chief Executive Craig Carey said the health service had performed well over the past five years in managing significantly increased demand for services whilst still delivering quality and timely care.

“Whilst our population over the past five years has been fairly steady, we have noticed significant increases in the number of travellers, as well as FIFO workers in the region working on numerous natural resource development projects,’ he said.

“From time to time, these travellers and workers will access health services in our region, just like our resident population and we are happy to provide them with the same quality care.’’

Mr Carey said the South West health service offered comprehensive antenatal and postnatal services across the region, as well as low-risk birthing services at Roma, St George and Charleville hospitals.

“However, our proximity to larger centres such as Toowoomba and Brisbane means that, despite our local birthing services, some expecting mothers may decide to have their babies elsewhere because their close family and support networks may be located there rather than in the South West,’’ he said.

“As such, our birthing numbers will fluctuate from time to time.’’

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

  • 23 per cent increase in emergency department presentations (from more than 23,280 to more than 28,620)
  • 11 per cent increase in surgeries performed (from more than 890 to more than 980)
  • 27 per cent increase in outpatient appointments (from more than 37,110 to more than 47,290)
  • Continued delivering more than 180 babies each year.

In the same period, South West HHS’s annual operating budget had increased from $130 million to more than $166 million, a 27 per cent growth.

The HHS’s total workforce has grown from 743 to 809 people (8.8% increase), including 20 to 26 doctors, 320 to 349 nurses and 11 to 18 midwives.

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

Last updated: 30 July 2021