I received an email the other day from a very concerned staff member at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane (Australia).

Would any other nurses like to confirm this situation, report similar situations in their own hospitals or add any feelings around it?

And what of the ‘traditional’ Christmas bed closures we see in most hospitals this time of year….do you have any thoughts about any consequences to our patients of that activity?

Here is a quote from the email:

[I currently work at the] Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane. We were informed Monday that due to federal government monies owed by the Qld Gov for miscalculating population increase, $100 mill has to be repaid, of which PAH has to pay $9.3 mill by June 2013.

PAH is closing 4 ICU beds and we have to cut or deploy approx 23 FTE, which equates to about 40 nursing staff.

Also, 5 spinal beds are being closed, wards in GARU (geriatric rehab and waiting area for nursing home placements) are being closed, ? 12 med/surg beds are being closed, plus other cuts.

Main issues off the top of my head are:

Bed block: With GARU wards closing , elderly patients awaiting nursing home placement will remain in the wards, taking up acute beds. This will affect ICU and the 3x HDU departments as we will not be able to discharge wardable patients. it will effect ED as they will not be able to get patients into a ward bed. Obviously in turn this will affect QAS in ramping times.

With Spinal closing beds (unknown if this is HDU and rehab, or just rehab) bed block will also occur, affecting ICU, Trauma HDU and orthopaedics. We have tetraplegic patients languishing in ICU at times, who are well and truly ready to start their rehab, but are unable to have a bed in Spinal.

The hospital already has significant bed block. Last week many wards had negative bed availability, and ED had a number of patients awaiting a ward bed. ICU also had a number of patients unable to be discharged to various wards.

Don’t go being involved in a major trauma, or getting seriously ill in the next 6 months, there won’t be a bed for you!

By closing 4 beds, we need to offload approximately 40 staff.
We have been told that anyone to go will have jobs in the hospital, & that whoever is selected to go will be seconded to another area in the hospital, without a choice. Whether this will be done in 2 or 3 month rotating blocks, or as a permanent pool we don’t know. And then what happens at the end of June (which is the date that money is to be repaid by), do those of us seconded still have an ICU position?

8 Responses to “When we shut the beds.”

  1. I only worked 1 day out of the fortnight at the PRINCESS ALEXANDRA hospital and this pay period I have not received any work. I am on the Casual pool of nurses and only found out about Can Do Campbell’s job cuts a couple of weeks ago. A nurse manager also a union rep gave a clear picture of what was being done at the hospital. 4 beds in ICU. Staff are to be used in Anaesthetics to cover for their staff shortage. 4 beds in ward 3c. 4 further beds in surgical wards. 6 beds in the brain injury rehab unit. 4 beds in the spinal unit. 8 beds in 5b (medical). 8 each in Bunya, Cassia and Banksia rehab wards.until April. Elective surgery to close ten theatre sessions a week. No category 3 operations. Only nurse graduates who signed a contract with the hospital are to start in Jan/Feb. Start date is delayed for new nurse graduates. Staff are to be redeployed, take annual leave or lnog service leave. No work for me for how long. I’m lucky I don’t have a mortgage. Others are not having food put on the table so I heard from someone who attended the union meeting.

  2. It’s not just Queensland – Victorian hospitals have been told we’re short approx. $107 million (just over the $104 million the Baillieu government aimed to save by abolishing ratios etc during our recent EBA). So far it’s the rural hospials that have been targetted, and now jobs at the Royal Melbourne Hospital are under threat.

    ANF (Vic. branch) released a well-sourced letter regarding the funding – http://anfvic.asn.au/news/43322.html; I’ve discussed the myth that cuts to support staff don’t affect front line workers here: http://tnipe.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/a-quick-word-on-front-line-staff/

    • Thank you for this your words echo our concerns and will be useful at our “meeting to dicuss concerns:” tomorrow which of course I know what the outcome will be……… if we do not put our concerns in writing and if patient outcomes are affected or an incident occurs the heiracy will say they were unaware of the effects,,,,.

  3. QHealth’s Budget has been slashed and we all understand hard financial times, “do more with less”. The Government and Hospital boards spruking that there is no impact on frontline patient care and safety due to these cuts is laughable. The ripple effect is already being felt with AO jobs cut back, ward services cut back, longer waiting lists, etc .

    Ensuring that our voices are heard (documenting and escalating formally) re concerns with patient and staff safety, encouraging patients to formalise complaints, prioritising cares and not attending duties that impact on time spent at the bedside and supporting one another is paramount.

    If an incident occurs, a hard lesson learnt is that we are not supported by the organisation, so documentation of concerns re impending risks is also important and should be our priority. We are advocates for our patients and colleagues safety and in this financial climate being abe to provide safe reliable care is being ignored. Don’t be ignored.

  4. In regards to bed closures I can only say that as a staff member of another Queensland hospital (not as big as the PAH) – we have closed a set number of beds on weekends, and another set number during the week on our ward. This is reflected in the reduction of staff on the roster. So what do you think happens when the desperate need for the bed arises? Why they open some up again, of course. And the limited staff that are working are forced care for the additional patients.

    Don’t even get me started on ramping. I heard Campbell Newman report to the media the other day that ramping has reduced by 90% in Queensland hospitals due to the changes made. I wonder if he was aware of the details behind this – how the 4 hour wait time was met by the ED department, and in turn the wards? Furious.

  5. I work in the PAH ICU and can confirm all of the above. This situation will get worse before it gets better. The Federal Government is going ahead with the plan to penalise hospitals whose ED’s do not admit or assess patients before 4hrs wait time. THe State Government is going ahead with all the plans listed.

    Where does that leave the staff of the hospital? We were initially told that there would be no loss of frontline workers, but of course that means that when the support staff have gone the frontline workers need to undertake certain of those roles as well, then with these cuts on top?

    This will only put patient safety at risk. The Medication safety unit of the hospital is already gone. What next?

    The public of the region are not being given the information they need to have the conversation they need to have about what kind of healthcare they want. Rather, they’ll get the squeezed under pressure system that is left.

  6. This is another abomination by Slayem Campbell. He cannot be allowed to continue, surely Paliament can overule him

  7. Wow. PAH is the only spinal injury referral facility in Queensland. The waiting time to get a bed down there when my friend fractured his spine was 3-6 months from Townsville…that’s 3-6 months in TTH’s ICU or neuro ward before rehab can be started.

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