It’s time to rethink how hospitals care for ageing patients

Hon Roger Cook WA Deputy Premier; Minister for Health; Mental Health

On 11 March 2017 Western Australia will hold its next state election. Roger Cook, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Health shares Labor’s plans to address the changing health care needs of an ageing population.


Roger Cook, WA Labor
Roger Cook, WA Labor

As we all continue the journey through our lives, there is nothing more important than our health. If we do happen to fall ill or injure ourselves, having a world class health system that can support us is even more important. People are constantly saying to me that as patients or as family of patients, they want to be cared for with great hospital services.

Australians are getting older and living longer. Our hospitals need to change to meet their needs. Age-related illnesses, cancer, and incidents of falls are increasing and putting pressure on our hospital system.

And it’s not as if our hospitals aren’t already under pressure.

When the Barnett Government was elected there were just over 12,000 people waiting for their pain-relieving operations, today that figure is almost 20,000. And those people are waiting longer than ever before to be treated.

Our hospital emergency departments are at crisis point. In August, September, and October this year, patients were ‘ramped’ for over 2,000 hours each month. That is, patients waited in an ambulance or in a corridor under paramedic supervision simply waiting to get into the emergency department before waiting again for care.

Currently there are around 180 patients in hospital beds that are ready to be discharged but are too frail to return home. They are called, “Care Awaiting Placement,” patients who urgently require aged care but can’t find a place in a facility to look after them.

It seems the Barnett Government has spent all its time thinking about hospital buildings but no time thinking about patient care.

WA Labor has fresh ideas to improve our hospitals. It’s a policy called, “Putting Patients First.”

Putting Patients First is about recognising that there is no such thing as a standard patient. Rather than making the patient adapt to standard hospital care, it’s time that hospitals changed to meet the needs of patients.

Medihotels are a good example of putting patients first. If elected, a McGowan Labor Government will develop a series of Medihotels, special hotels built in or near hospitals to provide a family friendly environment with nurse visits and post-operative care to allow patients to recuperate in a relaxed environment before returning home. Instead of being kicked out of hospital before they feel they are ready to leave, patients will be offered a bed in a Medihotel to build their strength and confidence.

Medihotels will be particularly important for country patients. Many country patients have nowhere to stay as they come to Perth for their care and often stay longer in hospital because they are too weak to undertake the arduous journey home. Medihotels will be able to accommodate country patients, and their husband or wife, mix with other patients also recovering from their operation, and be given advice on how to manage their wound or condition as they prepare to leave the hospital.

Urgent Care Clinics are another fresh idea to serve patients better. Rather than expecting all patients to wait in a loud and crowded hospital emergency department, a McGowan Labor Government will develop Urgent Care Clinics in hospitals and the community to provide patients with urgent care after hours care without the need to travel to a hospital.

Urgent Care Clinics will be staffed by GP’s and nurses who will have a direct line of communication with the local ED and provide on the spot, bulk billed, afterhours care.

And WA Labor will boost aged care places by providing strategic parcels of land to aged care providers to increase the number of beds available. By increasing the number of aged care beds we can ensure that older patients are not left sitting in a normal hospital bed waiting for a place to become available. It will stop patients and their families from that long, anxious wait for a place.

Older Australians deserve hospital care that meets their needs. Our hospitals should be there for those patients. WA Labor will ensure that our hospitals have the resources and the services available to Put Patients First.


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