Tuesday, January 20, 2004

NSW health system 'in crisis'

The president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says it will take more money and cooperation from all sectors of the community to fix what he has described as a crisis in the New South Wales health system.

AMA president Bill Glasson says a new report on the time it takes for patients to move from the emergency department into a general ward shows things are getting worse.

He says alleged cases of mistreatment at Camden and Campbelltown hospitals and funding shortfalls for the Westmead Children's hospital are further signs that current strategies are simply not working.

But Dr Glasson says extra money for hospitals is not the key to a solution.

"It will take extra funds, but I think it will also take a profession and a community and on behalf of the bureaucrats, a much smarter system, to make sure we try to address the needs of an ever-aging population and also a system that can deliver much more in the way of improved quality of care than we could 20 years ago," he said.

The Opposition's health spokesman, Barry O'Farrell, says with at least four separate investigations underway into the health system, the Government has shown it will not deal with the crisis as a whole.

"We have the very limited Walker Inquiry, we have a number of inquiries before the ICAC, which of course has no medical experience, we have the Coroner's Court undertaking some investigations, and we have the New South Wales police service," he said. "The allegations about the hospital system, about adverse patient care, are coming so thick and fast that it needs a system-wide response."

Health Minister Morris Iemma says he would not be surprised if more allegations emerge, but he as assured that any suspicious cases that are uncovered will be investigated. "New management teams, in the interests of transparency and getting to the bottom of what has happened at Camden [and] Campbelltown, are going through the files and sending off anything that raises an issue or causes a concern," he said.

"They'll be sending them off to the coroner or Walker or both."

By The Coroner 20 January 04


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