Monday, August 06, 2007

Only a government body could be this dumb

The number of maternity beds available for expectant mothers has fallen by almost 20 per cent over the past decade, despite an increase in the number of births on hospital wards. There are now about 1,900 fewer hospital beds for women giving birth than there were in 1997 in England, according to official figures obtained by the Conservatives and released yesterday.

Ten years ago there were 10,781 maternity beds, but in 2005-06 there were 8,883. The 18 per cent reduction cannot be explained by a small increase in the number of home births in recent years, as the number of hospital deliveries also rose; from 585,000 in 1997-98 to 593,400 in 2005-06. The statistics lend weight to claims that maternity services are becoming dangerously overstretched as they fail to keep pace with rising birth rates and an ever-increasing number of Caesarean sections.

Ministers have already admitted that the number of midwives fell last year – now, for the first time, the national reduction in maternity beds during the past decade is revealed. The Government was forced to deny that there was a maternity crisis this year when the National Patient Safety Agency examined 60,000 maternity ward errors in a three-year period ending last year. It found that 17,676 women had been injured, about 1,000 of them seriously.

Eight out of ten heads of midwifery say that they do not have sufficient staff to cope, according to the Royal College of Midwives. “We have seen too many service cuts, too many midwives lost, and too many mothers and babies getting a service that should shame the fourth richest country in the world,” Dame Karlene Davis, the RCM’s General Secretary, said this year.

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, released the figures as he promised a “bare-knuckle fight” to save local district hospitals threatened with closure because of NHS reorganisation. “There are 40 maternity units currently under threat and 90 accident and emergency units under threat,” Mr Cameron said on a visit to a hospital in his constituency yesterday. The Conservatives have chosen to take the battle over the future of local district hospitals to Gordon Brown after the man he selected to review the NHS suggested that many district hospitals should close. “We need fewer, more advanced and more specialised hospitals,” concluded Professor Ara Darzi after an investigation into London’s healthcare that he is now carrying out nationally.

A spokesman for the Department of Health denied that the review would lead to “wholesale closures of district hospitals”. “The NHS is also looking at the safest and most effective way of delivering care,” he said. “This does not mean wholesale closures of district general hospitals but it does mean that NHS clinicians and managers need to work with local communities to decide on the best organisation of services for patients in their areas. “Any decision on significant changes to services will be made only after full public consultation with local people.”


Australia: Patient dies in hospital hallway

A 43-YEAR-OLD woman has died on a stretcher at Brisbane's Logan Hospital because no beds were available. The Woodridge woman was brought in by paramedics suffering shortness of breath. She waited more than four hours but died before being admitted.

Queensland Ambulance sources said the woman's life could have been saved but a shortage of beds at the hospital, in Brisbane's south, meant she had to wait in a hallway for treatment that never came in time. "Logan Hospital is always at capacity - we take patients there and wait and wait, sometimes four, five, six or seven hours," one paramedic told The Sunday Mail yesterday. "This woman was taken in and she died on the stretcher waiting for help. It's wrong."

Queensland Health refused to comment. The Queensland Ambulance Service yesterday issued an unprecedented public statement yesterday about the death, saying it had referred the case to the Coroner for investigation. Ambulance Commissioner Jim Higgins said the woman was taken to Logan Hospital on July 18. While waiting at the hospital, she became unresponsive and resuscitation attempts failed. "This is a sad incident and I extend my condolences to the family of the patient," said Mr Higgins. "Such cases are always fully investigated. "The cause of the death is unknown and that's why this matter has been referred to the Coroner. "Until the Coroner makes a determination in this matter it would be inappropriate to comment further. "However, I can say that the patient was under the care of paramedics at all times." Mr Higgins said he had also referred the death to the independent watchdog, the Health Quality and Complaints Commission.

The ambulance source said Logan Hospital had been at capacity almost every night for the past fortnight. Gold Coast and Tweed Heads hospitals were on bypass - which meant no beds were available and ambulances were directed to take patients to the already over-stretched Logan Hospital.

The woman's death was similar to that of father-of-four Greg Hayes, 47, who died in June after being turned away from Tweed Heads Hospital and paramedics were forced to transport him another 22km to the Gold Coast Hospital. Health and ambulance officials tried to absolve themselves of blame over the death of the heart attack victim, saying a radio fault caused the tragedy.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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