Patients can be shunted into “overflow areas” at all Western Australian hospitals, the Health Department has confirmed, after another patient claimed to have been kept in a gym room at Fiona Stanley Hospital.
The Health Minister has been under fire after photos emerged of an elderly patient who was moved into a makeshift area in the physiotherapy gym last Monday.
The Health Department has now confirmed a second patient was placed in what it described as an “over-census bed”, after a woman came forward saying she had also been placed in a therapy room.
Speaking on Fairfax Radio, the woman said she had been admitted to have a lap-band removed, but was placed in the therapy area for 12 hours.
The woman, who gave her name as Fiona, described what happened.
“I was actually taken out of the room I was in and put into a therapy room for over 12 hours with no entertainment, no light, no other patients, no toilet and no bell,” she said.
“I was also given a handheld bell to ring, which no-one ever came.
This is outrageous, this is absolutely Third World, the Government should have been doing far better than this with a flagship new hospital that costs the taxpayers $2 billion.Opposition Leader Mark McGowan
“So I had to physically unplug myself from the wall, take myself out into the hallway, and flag down attention, really.”
After investigating the claims, the Health Department said that about 4:00am last Wednesday, a patient was placed in an “over-census bed” to make room for a patient from the hospital’s emergency department.
Without specifying the area, the Health Department said in a statement the area was adjacent to the ward and close to the staff base.
“There is access to the appropriate oxygen and suction, the patient was able to walk to a bathroom that is within a short distance and the patient was provided with a hand bell,” the statement said.
“The patient was moved to the short stay unit later the same day.”
According to the department, patients are moved to “overflow areas” only as “a last resort”, and only then for short time periods, but it can happen in all WA hospitals.
“Over-census beds are used as bed demand continually fluctuates throughout the day as discharges and admissions take place,” the statement said.
“All WA hospitals have policies and procedures in place to manage this increased demand for inpatient beds, including coordinated discharge planning and use of overflow areas.
“Before moving, each patient is carefully assessed for suitability to be placed in the overflow area.
“Nurses rostered to overflow areas provide the same level of patient care as that in a ward environment, which includes regular patient monitoring.”
Hames condemns hospital, rejects call to resign
Health Minister Kim Hames earlier said the decision to place the first patient in the gym was “unacceptable”.
A report published by News Corporation on Sunday said the man, aged in his 70s and suffering acute renal failure, was kept in the gym for eight hours and given a handbell to ring if he required help.
Dr Hames said any patients at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) who were without a room should be transferred to Fremantle Hospital.
However he said it was a structural problem to do with the reconfiguring of hospital services, rather than a systemic one.
Dr Hames said even when beds were unavailable at Fiona Stanley, doctors appeared reluctant to move patients to the under-utilised Fremantle Hospital, which he said may be part of the difficulties of managing a high workload.
“It’s extra time that they’ve got to put into an already busy day, but that’s what we have to do if we are going to balance across our system,” Dr Hames said.
“It’s no good having over-utilised beds in one area and under-utilised in another.”
Dr Hames has flatly rejected Opposition claims that the incident was the latest in a string of failures in managing the transition of services to FSH, and also dismissed calls for him to resign.
A parliamentary committee report last week levelled serious criticism at the State Government over how services were managed during the commissioning of FSH.
The State Opposition is using this fresh case to renew its call for the Health Minister to step down.
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said if the woman’s claims were true, it was unacceptable and the Health Minister needed to go.
“This is outrageous, this is absolutely Third World. The Government should have been doing far better than this with a flagship new hospital that costs the taxpayers $2 billion,” he said.