Figures have recently been released showing that, in the last six months of 2010, 958 people waited over 24 hours for treatment in emergency departments of Victorian hospitals.
I’ve had some limited experience with emergency departments, and I thought my 6 and 8 hour waits were excessive. I couldn’t even imagine waiting an entire day. Especially as, if I go to emergency, I pretty much have to take Elspeth with me, and all the baggage that entails (food, drinks, toys, nappies, and so on).
I’m fully aware that emergency departments must and do prioritise: the actual life-threatening situations would, I’m sure, be treated much quicker than this. But I’m also aware that you don’t go to emergency (and wait for that long) if you don’t need to, or if you have another option.
I do not blame the doctors and nurses, the orderlies, or any hospital staff. I know full well that the vast majority of those people are hard-working, dedicated, caring individuals who want the best for their patients and try to achieve that under stressful conditions.
So the blame must lie further up the chain of command. What exactly is the problem? Do we have insufficient doctors? Insufficient beds and space? Not enough money? A bit of everything? And how can these issues be addressed?
Fixing this is something I feel rather strongly about. As I mentioned above, I have had to rely on emergency department treatment more than once myself, and no doubt will again at some point in the future. I do not look at the figures in an abstract, removed way; instead I look at them and say, ‘What if I were one of those 958 people? What if my daughter was? My husband?’ I hate to think of how that might impact our family; a medical issue going untreated for too long gets worse, and depending what the problem is, may have ongoing, long term implications.
Victorian Health Minister David Davis (seriously, did his mother have no imagination?) says that the 24 hour wait is “too long”, and that he will “seek to improve that performance,” but I would be interested to know exactly what he intends to do about it. No doubt he’s got private health cover!