Ambulance Ramping Times Continue Upward Climb in Australian State

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
December 15, 2021 Updated: December 16, 2021

A new audit has revealed that Queensland’s ambulance ramping—the time it takes to transfer patients from an ambulance to the emergency department—has continued climbing “significantly” over the past five years.

The audit is the latest report to highlight ongoing problems with the state’s health system, including delays for patients, and mismanagement.

“In 2020–21, ambulance lost time for the top 26 hospitals was 111,697 hours—an increase of 76 percent from 2019–20,” the financial audit report of the Queensland Ambulance Service revealed on Dec. 16.

The time calculated in the report begins accumulating every moment an ambulance is forced to wait longer than 30 minutes outside a hospital before they can offload their patient.

The report also found demand for ambulance services has grown as well, with the number of complex cases increasing.

Emergency incidents have increased 18 percent, and urgent incidents by 19 percent—however, the system was commended for its response time to such issues.

Staff have also been taking more leave with a 7.8 percent increase in the number of hours of leave taken.

“The growing leave balances will lead to an increase in expenses in the future, as staff take leave and temporary roles are filled to meet the workforce requirements,” the report said.

There were also delays in Queensland Health’s debt recovery, particularly for hotel quarantine.

From 2020 to 2021, the Department of Health calculated the body was owed $179.4 million in quarantine fees, however, $82.5 million was yet to be invoiced by the service.

“As of June 30, 2021, over 25,000 quarantine invoices had not been processed.”

The audit said invoicing duties should be passed on to dedicated debt collection services.

The audit comes after an internal review of the Metro-North Hospital and Health Service in south-east Queensland found several issues with the management of the organisation.

“As a result of poor leadership, and fear of retribution because of past bullying and harassment, responses to staff surveys and suitable representation at meetings saw ineffective participation and inadequate information and feedback about safety and quality in particular,” according to a press release from Caboolture Hospital.

“Inappropriate behaviours in the workplace can have a direct link to poor surgical outcomes and performance.”

Former Queensland Premier and now-Liberal Democrat candidate, Campbell Newman, has previously told The Epoch Times that weak political leadership had allowed competing interests within the state’s hospital system—administrators and medical unions—to fester, contributing to poorer outcomes for patients.

“The trouble is that our public health systems are highly unionised, and what we found in Queensland back when I was premier was there weren’t the controls and management measures in place to ensure that the system really was performing properly,” he told The Epoch Times. “Indeed, we found there were significant rorts going on as well.”

“One of the things that cause ambulance ramping is ‘access block,’” he said, referring to the situation where patients are stuck in an emergency department for more than eight hours because they cannot be transferred to a hospital bed.

“You didn’t have enough beds because you didn’t effectively manage the system so that people—as soon as it’s appropriate—were discharged from the hospital,” Campbell said.