Friday, January 09, 2009

Australian mother dies because of closed government maternity services

Rural doctors have blamed the closure of country maternity wards for a mother's death. The Barooga mother of one, 38, died from heavy bleeding caused by an ectopic pregnancy after allegedly waiting more than two hours at Cobram District Hospital for an ambulance to take her to Shepparton's Goulburn Valley Hospital for emergency surgery. Deaths from ectopic pregnancies, where the fertilised egg grows outside the womb, are rare and the coroner has begun an investigation.

The Cobram hospital's obstetrics unit closed about six years ago and Rural Doctors Association Victoria president Dr Mike Moynihan said a lack of specialists may have cost the woman her life. "On the surface, it would have made a difference if there was a maternity ward if it was a straightforward ectopic," he said. ". . . There are going to be more of these incidents and we have pointed this out to the Government."

The Cobram and Shepparton hospitals declined to comment on the woman's death because of the coronial investigation. But Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said the Brumby Government had endangered lives by closing 20 country maternity wards, including Cobram's. "John Brumby has breached the trust of Victorian families by closing maternity wards and presiding over an underfunded health system which endangers the lives of Victorian women," Ms Shardey said. "Many country paramedics have told me response times are poor and plenty of rural doctors have warned the Brumby Government time and time again that the closure of maternity units could cost lives. "John Brumby and the Minister for Health will be held accountable for the closure of 20 maternity wards, particularly in light of their flippant claim that Labor has provided record funding for health."

Premier John Brumby said funding was not an issue as it had doubled in the past nine years. "In relation to any local services, whether they're maternity or any other specialist services, it's the local doctors and clinicians who make the decisions about whether those services are provided," he said. "I understand in the case of this hospital (it) took the decision that better services were available elsewhere."


Australia: Five-year surgery wait for almost 400 Queenslanders

ALMOST 400 sick Queenslanders have been placed on surgery waiting lists for more than five years, figures released today have shown. Figures obtained by the State Opposition also show 264 people assessed as category two patients - needing surgery within 90 days - have been waiting up to two years for surgery. Opposition Health spokesman Mark McArdle said the government was failing some of the state's sickest people. "These are life threatening illnesses and this government has done nothing to save these people," he said. The figures also showed a blow out in waiting times for a hospital bed, which has grown from four hours and 48 minutes in 2004-05, to nearly six hours in 2007-08.

Australian Medical Association of Queensland (AMAQ) says the figures were unacceptable. AMAQ acting president Mason Stephenson said the figures were not new but once again highlighted a need for more beds. "Beds are on top of the list, then you need more medical man and woman power - more doctors and nurses - then you need the operating time," Mr Stephenson said. "If you look at the 400 waiting for more than five years, they are category three patients - often elderly patients needing prosthetic knees and hip replacements or orthopaedics ... they are suffering to a lesser extent but they are suffering none-the-less and this is unacceptable." He said in past 20 years there has been a reduction in public hospital capacities and now it was up to all governments to reverse this trend and cut waiting lists.

Mr McArdle said the figures were proof the government had mismanaged the health budget throughout the state's most prosperous period. "In the best economic times this state has seen for many years, this government has blown the health budget and has not provided adequate care for Queenslanders," he said. The Liberal National Party would improve the health system by "streamlining" funds to the frontline, but that didn't mean sacking bureaucrats, Mr McArdle said. "We'll move to ensure these (waiting) lists are reduced dramatically and provide an efficient Queensland health system," he said.

"We know that the efficiencies in the Queensland Health department are there to be utilised, we know that there are millions of dollars misspent in Queensland Health that can be redirected to the bottom line - to the doctors to the nurses, allied health professionals." Mr McArdle said the opposition would release its health policy "in near future".


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