Hospitals in spotlight

DELAYS: Moves are afoot to avoid ambulances queues at hospitals.LOCAL health districts including the Hunter’s will have to come up with plans by the year’s end to improve the movement of patients through hospitals, following a demanding winter for emergency departments, Health Minister Jillian Skinner says.

Under the measures, a local health district executive would be responsible 24 hours a day for monitoring patients’ access to ensure hospital and ambulance staff worked together.

Health district boards would endorse plans by the end of the year for moving patients more quickly throughout hospitals, Ms Skinner said.

It follows delays with ambulances waiting to offload patients at busy hospital emergency departments, or bed block.

Ms Skinner said the measures followed “a particularly busy winter” for emergency departments across the state.

Paramedics have long complained of ambulances being tied up for hours.

The Newcastle Herald reported earlier this year that in the past two financial years, Hunter ambulances had wasted the combined equivalent of a year sitting at overcrowded hospital emergency departments.

The Health Services Union will also renew today its campaign against rostering changes. It has dubbed today “yellow vest day” with members to wear vests to highlight what the union says is chronic understaffing.

It claims a shortage of 770 full-time positions, which the NSW Ambulance Service has rejected.

The union’s acting industrial manager Tom Stevanja said response times were blowing out in areas like Muswellbrook and Singleton.

The service was trying to make up for shortages and funding holes by asking paramedics to work shorter shifts and spend more time in an unpaid on-call capacity.

An Ambulance Services spokesman accused the union of “scaremongering” and said the shift changes reduced the incidence of lone paramedics being forced to respond to calls.

He said the service and the union agreed to trial the rosters and appear again before the Industrial Relations Commission on December 17.