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Proposed Ballarat bed closures threaten older patients’ care

Proposed Ballarat bed closures threaten older patients’ care

The ANMF (Victorian Branch) says patient access for Ballarat and Grampians residents will be compromised by Ballarat Health Services’ cynical proposal to close four beds on a ward for geriatric patients.

The Ballarat Base Hospital plans to reduce the bed numbers from 24 to 20 on the hospital’s geriatric evaluation management (GEM) ward from 13 January 2020, ahead of the upcoming abolition of the ‘50 per cent rule’ under the Safe Patient Care Amendment Act 2019 in March 2020.

When the ‘50 per cent rule’ is abolished, Ballarat Health Services would have to roster an additional nurse on the hospital’s GEM ward on night duty to meet a ratio of one nurse to 10 patients. This would mean three nurses caring for 24 patients on the ward at night. The Department of Health and Human Services has funded Victorian public hospitals for additional staff required under changes to nurse/midwife: patient ratios within the Safe Patient Care Amendment Act.

ANMF (Victorian Branch) members are visiting Wendouree MP Juliana Addison with their concerns about patient access as a result of the proposed bed closures. Patient access in Ballarat will suffer as the GEM ward bed closures will extend patient waiting times in the hospital’s emergency department. Patients unable to be transferred to the GEM ward will have to remain in general medical ward beds.

ANMF (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said there was an ‘extraordinary’ demand for GEM beds at Ballarat Base Hospital and the hospital had received public funds for the nursing care required by these frail, older patients.

‘The Andrews Government has funded public hospitals, including the Ballarat Base Hospital, for any additional nursing staff required under the Safe Patient Care Amendment Act ratios,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

‘There is extraordinary demand for care within the Ballarat Base Hospital geriatric evaluation management ward, with on average 23.5 out of 24 beds full at all times in the past 12 months.

‘The ANMF calls upon Ballarat Health Services to maintain current bed numbers on the geriatric evaluation management ward.’

Patients on the GEM ward are usually admitted following acute care for a medical condition, infection, or post-surgery. On this ward, older, frail patients receive the 24-hour nursing care they need before being discharged home.