McGowan Government misleading public about ‘massive’ patient numbers

Aug 10, 2021 | Health, Libby Mettam MLA, WA Labor

New figures obtained by the Opposition have highlighted that contrary to the McGowan Government spin, there has not been a significant increase of emergency department presentations across the State.

For months, the McGowan Labor Government has been blaming the current health crisis on an influx in people attending emergency departments but the latest WA Health Department figures show that is simply not true.

Despite the Government’s claim of record attendances, the number of presentations in June 2021 actually fell two per cent when compared to pre-Covid levels in June 2019.

“The McGowan Government has been misleading the public about the true reason our hospitals are stretched to capacity and the health system is in crisis – that is its own incompetence and underinvestment,” Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said.

“With our hospitals regularly calling Code Yellows because there aren’t enough beds and our ambulances spending a record numbers of hours outside our hospitals waiting for patients to be accepted, all we have heard from this Government is excuses.

“Both the Premier and the Health Minister have blamed the crisis on “massive numbers of people presenting at emergency departments”, and a “significant increase in demand” but the reality is there simply hasn’t been a huge spike in patients.
“In fact, what these figures show is that the number of patients our hospitals received in June is actually less than the winter flu season of 2019.

“The number of people presenting at our emergency departments across the state has been predictable and consistent and is in in line with the trend we have seen over the past four years. The reason our hospitals are struggling is simply because this government has dropped the ball.”

Ms Mettam said these figures highlight that the average presentations per month over the last six months of 2019 pre-COVID (80,400) was comparable to the first six months of 2021 (81,200).

“If we compare the data for those comparable six-month periods, we have seen an increase of 800 people per month or an extra 27 people a day across the whole State.

“To elude that this is a massive spike throwing our hospital system into crisis is completely disingenuous.

“The reason our hospitals are struggling to cope is because the McGowan Government has failed to make health a priority for the past four years and is only now realising this underinvestment has led to a system in crisis.”

Ms Mettam said while she welcomed this week’s announcement of extra funding and services, the devil will be in the detail.
“It’s great they have committed, finally, to opening up more beds and employing more doctors and nurses but the question is where are they going to come from and when? So far, the Health Minister hasn’t been able to answer those questions.”