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Question on Hospital Bed Capacity

Question to the Minister for Health, Oct 28, 2021

Amy MacMahon:

My question is for the Minister for Health and Ambulance Services. Data from Queensland Health says that during the financial year from July 2020 to June 2021 the number of hospital beds in Queensland increased by just 200, well below the 10-year average of 245. Why has the number of beds in Queensland failed to keep pace despite the need to prepare for reopening?

Yvette D'Ath:

I thank the member for the question. The member may not understand that, when it comes to the health system, beds flex up and flex down throughout the year in relation to the needs of communities. In fact, we have already announced additional funding in the last few months, including this year’s budget, to open up and purchase 416 beds, both in the public system and the private system. This is not unusual, because we partner with the private system often where there are surges to ensure that we can deal with the extra demands we see happening in the health system.

In saying that, we know that we need extra beds. We know that the 600 beds being taken up by people in aged care and disability right now—I see the member roll her eyes. Imagine having a disability where you do not need clinical care. You could be living in a home. You could be going out into the community with friends and family having a good quality of life, and instead you spend every minute of your day in a hospital bed in a ward. That is your home, not because medically you need to be there, but because no-one has bothered to make sure you have a disability package. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to ensure they have that support. Imagine your elderly parents or grandparents sitting in a hospital bed when they could be either in their home or in an aged-care facility that will give them the care and support they need.

This is the No. 1 priority of every health minister in this country right now in our requests of Greg Hunt and Scott Morrison. This is our No. 1 request because we care about these people. They do not deserve to be spending their time in hospital beds when they do not need to be there. Those 600 beds could be used for elective and emergency surgery, dealing with the pressures in emergency departments and ramping. When the member asks about bed capacity, at least acknowledge that these are genuine issues. Do not roll your eyes, shake your head or say, ‘Don’t blame the Commonwealth.’ Someone has to call the Commonwealth out. This side of the parliament will. This government will, because we invest in health. The LNP cuts. The Leader of the Opposition claims he supports the AMA’s call. Well, pick up the phone, write a letter to ‘Scotty from marketing’ and say ‘Hand over the money now.’

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