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2013 Hospital Report Card: Media conference transcript

Last week AMA Federal President, Dr Steve Hambleton, held a media conference in Sydney to announce the release of the 2013 Hospital Report Card.

AMA Victoria's President, Dr Stephen Parnis, was also there and spoke about the issues specific to Victoria. He said,

"Good morning everyone. I'm also an emergency physician. I work full time in clinical practice, so I have personal experience of the human cost that these sorts of figures indicate. The news is grim from Victoria. We have been a template, in many ways, for the nation in terms of the state and federal agreements over recent years. We've had 20 years of activity-based funding, which the rest of the country will be being involved with in coming years. We have had arguably one of the more efficient systems, in terms of fewer hospital beds per head of population. We have health networks that have been active and vigorous and autonomous for over a decade. But unfortunately, the blame game, which has reached a poisonous level in Victoria, is now having a direct and immediate impact on the hospital system, whether you are at the Alfred Hospital or whether you are Wimmera Base Hospital in regional Victoria.

These cuts which have occurred as a direct result of the arguments that have occurred between the Federal and State governments have resulted in cuts across the board. Elective surgery is going to continue to blow out at unprecedented levels. Emergency surgery is being cancelled. Beds are closed, and emergency departments are crowded, and we are having traffic jams because ambulances are forming queues outside most major hospitals. This is the difficult situation.

The increased need for medical staffing and resources is there, and yet we are having redundancies. We have having doctors - other clinicians as well - being cut back in terms of their hours. The - in some cases, complete redundancies. I have seen cases where elective cases have become emergencies because of inappropriate, unacceptable delays. Good examples would be a woman who should have had her gall bladder removed for stones some weeks earlier who presented to the emergency for the fourth consecutive time with a complication that required emergency and admission and care, with increased risk to that patient. Also, a case of an elderly man who had severe arthritis of the hip - that a waiting - a joint replacement, for in excess of a year. He had a fall. That arthritis became a hip fracture requiring emergency surgery.

So the clinical impacts are there for all to see. It is really affecting morale among the doctors and nurses of Victoria, who are really absolutely dedicated to the care of their patients, and it really undermines our confidence as far as our ability to teach and train the doctors who are coming through the system now. One of the most poisonous aspects of the blame game at the moment has been that money has been taken out of health budgets around Victorian hospitals from the past financial year, the 2011/12 financial year, and this was announced in December last year. So money has been spent, and as Dr Owler said, there is no fat in the system, but that money is being forced to be found, so we are having draconian measures introduced across the system. It is unprecedented in my 20 years as a doctor. Thank you."

Read the entire transcript here. Photos from the conference can also be viewed here.

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