Aged care hotline a band aid fix that doesn’t address systemic issues in WA health system

The McGowan Government’s aged care hospital hotline appears to be yet another blame-shifting exercise and replicates other tele-health lines that already exist.

Shadow Minister for Health Libby Mettam said the Opposition acknowledges any initiative to address the issue of ambulance ramping, but today’s announcement fails to address the core problems in the broken WA health system.

“I do worry the McGowan Government are attempting to shift the blame of WA’s ambulance ramping on to our sick, elderly Western Australians, and our under-resourced aged-care workers,” Ms Mettam said.

“Telling our elderly not to call triple zero is not addressing the fundamental cause of ramping which is bed block in the system.

“And how long does the Health Minister expect our sick aged-care residents to sit by the phone before getting the urgent medical attention they require?

“These are people’s parents and grandparents and deserve the best medical care in their senior years – not sitting by the phone waiting for the ambulance green light.”

Ms Mettam said there are already effective triage initiatives.

St John’s Ambulance has a team with a doctor in place to appropriately triage patients to reduce unnecessary ED presentations, with one in five calls not resulting in an ambulance being dispatched. The Residential Care Line offers a clinical consultancy service for aged care facilities and there is also a 24/7 Health Direct line.

”How is today’s announcement different, or is the Health Minister unnecessarily doubling up?” Ms Mettam asked.

“The McGowan Government can provide as many numbers as it likes but the issue is a phone number is not a solution to the lack of alternative care pathways in the health system.

“Some of these patients may be better treated at alternative clinics but the reality is there are no other options other than emergency departments.”

Ms Mettam also raised concerns around how elderly patients would interpret the information and raised more questions about how it would be staffed.

“I do worry how elderly people will react to this announcement. Telling elderly people not to call triple zero could lead to some more serious health outcomes.

“I understand that while half of the patients ramped in ambulances are over 70, a large sector are not from aged care facilities but rather from private homes.

“Ambulance ramping is a result of not having enough staff or beds in the system. Until there is long-term change in addressing those issues, ramping is going to continue.