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Aged Care questions remain

Thursday, 10th February, 2011

By Gina Wilson

The local hospital has not addressed public concerns about aged care patients after a sick, elderly woman spent all night in the emergency department.

The BDT was asked by the hospital to provide questions in writing yesterday. Thirteen questions were sent in the morning, including if the new manager, Stuart Riley, would support a policy of sending aged care patients to nearby facilities where adequate care could be given to them.

The elderly woman spent the night in emergency and was later accommodated for two days in a 'swing' bed opposite the maternity ward as beds were not available in other wards, including medical.

The BDT was also told by concerned locals that the hospital was full, having to accommodate aged care patients and mental health patients in its beds.

While the hospital would not tell the BDT what its occupancy rate was, it said it had been experiencing "close to capacity occupancy" but neglected to say why.

"The hospital has been experiencing close to full capacity occupancy but that capacity fluctuates," a spokesman said."The hospital has experienced a higher than normal occupancy rate expected compared to the previous summer.

"The issue of aged care patients taking up hospital beds again came to light last year when former Broken Hill Hospital manager, Rod Wyber-Hughes, said there was so much pressure on the hospital that it would have to consider enforcing a long-standing, but never used policy of moving elderly patients away.

At that time 11 of the 24 medical ward beds were taken up by aged care patients, some with severe dementia. Mr Wyber-Hughes said that number was often as high as 17.

He said it also caused "bed blockage" and, in July last year, meant as many as 17 local patients awaiting transfer from Adelaide hospitals could not come home.A Far West Local Health Network spokesman yesterday provided this response to the issue which, in July, caused considerable stress to patients and their relatives.

"The Broken Hill Health System from time to time cares for a significant amount of elderly patients awaiting placement in an appropriate aged care residency," he said.

"The placement of these patients is an issue the Health Service deals with in collaboration with families of these patients."As far as possible, patients are placed locally. When that is not possible, the health service working with the family of the patient identifies the most appropriate alternative.

"The hospital said there were now 13 aged care patients waiting for placement in an appropriate facility, nine of whom were high care patients.The hospital did not say how it intended to deal with the problem of aged care patients which is likely to increase given the city's ageing population.

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