Ambulance ramping figures a stark reminder of lack of preparedness for COVID outbreak

WA is set to record another horror month, the second worst on record, with St John’s recording one of the highest days on record last week and an annual figure already 300 per cent higher than 2017.
“These shocking figures are the second worst on record, highlighting the failing of the McGowan Government to address bed block in our hospitals despite promises to address this issue when coming to Government,” said Libby Mettam, Shadow Spokesperson for Health.
“These figures have become considerably worse over the last 20 months, raising the question about how this government has failed to prepare our hospitals for COVID.
“Last time the excuse was a respiratory virus, with no COVID in the community and promises we are battle ready for COVID I look forward to hearing what the Health Ministers latest excuse is for this poor report card.”
New figures reveal ramping for October was well above 5400 hours, with St John’s recording 362 hours on October 18. The annual figures are even more shocking.
From an annual figure of around 9,800 hours in one year in 2017, WA’s annual figure for 2021, with two months to go, is over 38,600 hours – a 300% increase since Labor came to government.
The Opposition says the figures are another stark reminder of the state of the health system and further evidence of why the Premier has refused to open the border and failed to release a roadmap to living with COVID in WA, as every other State has done.
“All we have heard from the WA Labor Government is that it is relying on the “precious gift of time” to prepare our hospitals for an outbreak of COVID,” Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said.
“But 21 months into this pandemic and it’s clear the health system is in no better state, with ambulance ramping and bed block consistently getting worse.
“We know they have bought the extra ventilators to deal with a surge capacity if there is an outbreak of COVID cases, but the Health Minister hasn’t clearly been able to say where the beds will come from or if we have the specialist staff to actually nurse these critical patients.
“In Estimates last week, it was revealed they have only just started upskilling nurses at Royal Perth Hospital to be able to nurse ventilated staff and the second lot of upskilling won’t start until the end of the year.
“Beyond that, the Health Minister says they are “actively recruiting” and is relying on a closed border to provide the “gift of time” to find the staff.
“It’s incredulous that this wasn’t a priority 21 months ago. The government has squandered the gift of time and the opportunity to ensure our health system is “battle ready” as promised by the Minister last year.
“Instead, it is clear lagging vaccination rates and understaffing is holding this government back from even announcing a roadmap.”
Ms Mettam said the number of ICU beds had also dropped in the last year to just 6.0 beds per 100,000 Western Australians (down from 6.7 beds per 100,0000), the lowest number in the country.
“At a time when we should be ramping up our ICU capacity, WA’s has been reduced. How is this preparing the system for an outbreak where we know ICU beds are critical? It’s beyond belief.”