New figures show the extent of ambulance ramping at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.
New figures show the extent of ambulance ramping at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. Warren Lynam

Coast patients left on stretchers at $1.8 billion hospital

DESPITE the $1.8 billion spent on building the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, it now has some of the worst wait times in Queensland.

Referred to by Shadow Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Ros Bates, as a "health crisis", the figures show 26 per cent of patients at the hospital are not transferred off an ambulance stretcher within 30 minutes.

A further 31 per cent are not seen within clinically recommended times.

The only hospitals that fare worse with ambulance ramping are Gold Coast University Hospital and the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital with 31 per cent and 34 per cent waiting on stretchers for more than 30 minutes respectively.

When it comes to patients being seen within recommended times SCUH is doing slightly better than four other hospitals, including GCUH (45 per cent), Townsville Hospital (32 per cent), Mackay Base Hospital (32 per cent) and Bundaberg Hospital (32 per cent).

Caloundra MP Mark McArdle said the push to make the new hospital a "focal point" by shutting down the Caloundra Hospital emergency department and downgrading Nambour Hospital's was in the "poorest interest in all patients".

"You can't crush it all into one area," he said.

"We need to expand and understand our growing population... it's going to demand a long-term solution."

It's not just the patients waiting on stretchers that Mr McArdle is concerned about, but those who will suffer the flow on effect.

"The other spin-off from this is that if patients are not taken off the trolleys within the time recommended, it means paramedics must stay with them," he said.

"That means the next person in a motor vehicle accident on the Bruce Hwy or on the Sunshine Coast could be delayed treatment.

"And that's a recipe for a very bad outcome."

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles has claimed a particularly bad flu season - with 55,723 cases - impacted emergency department performance, but this was discounted by LNP Leader Deb Frecklington as "classic Labor buck-passing".

"Paramedics and our emergency department clinicians worked tirelessly last year to make sure critically ill people were seen on time," Mr Miles said.

"But the surge in flu patients did make things more difficult.

"There were more than 1.37 million emergency department presentations in 2017, up from more than 1.33 million in 2016."

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service chief executive, adjunct professor Naomi Dwyer said despite an increasing demand for health services in the region - with 5735 patients attending the emergency department in November alone - "one hundred per cent of our sickest (category 1) patients are treated within clinically recommended wait times".

"We acknowledge that some patients who are less sick may have to wait longer than recommended for treatment," she said.

"In an effort to improve this we have implemented a number strategies to improve the patient journey through our hospital including reducing delays in discharging patients who are well enough to go home.

"SCUH's emergency department is appropriately staffed by highly-trained health professionals who pride themselves on providing safe, quality care to our community."

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