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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 89 asked in the Legislative Council on 20 February 2019 by Hon Charles Smith

Minister responding: Hon R.H. Cook
Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on 20 February 2019

HOSPITALS — BED CAPACITY

89. Hon CHARLES SMITH to the parliamentary secretary representing the Minister for Health:

I refer to the response to question without notice 58 that I asked on 14 February 2019 about hospital overcrowding and resultant poor health outcomes for Western Australians.

(1) Why does the state government not have a benchmark for overcrowding?

(2) Does the state government concede that Western Australia has the lowest number of beds per capita of any state?

(3) Does the state government accept the assertion of the Australian Medical Association WA emergency medicine spokesman, Dr David Mountain, that WA needs another 500 to 700 beds just to catch up with the state with the next lowest bed stock?

(4) Does the state government concede that the beds-to-population ratio is likely to further deteriorate, given the state government is reducing real health funding in per capita terms while placing further pressure on services by promoting population growth?

Hon ALANNA CLOHESY replied:

I thank the honourable member for some notice of the question.

(1) In line with forecast demand, the Western Australian health system determines the capacity required in terms of infrastructure and resources. Demand for hospital services may at times be greater than forecast. Benchmarking is more appropriately undertaken for key performance indicators related to the provision of services.

The WA health system is highly effective and efficient and continues to lead the nation in key indicators such as time in emergency departments and elective surgery wait times. This, along with an increased proportion of same-day admissions and decreasing average length of stay, makes beds-to-population ratios less relevant to performance.

(2) WA has 2.3 available beds per 1 000 people compared with the national average of 2.6 beds. It should be noted, however, that WA Health has a number of services contracted to the private sector and that beds related to these services are not counted within that data. It should also be noted that the number of services contracted to the private sector across all Australian jurisdictions is not reported in the available data, and, as such, a comparison per capital across Australia cannot be made. The source is the Report on Government Services.

(3) No.

(4) Population growth is one of the key drivers for forecasting demand for hospital services. The WA government continues to increase the funding for health services consistent with these forecasts. Efficiencies in both clinical models and lower average costs enable the WA health system to provide more services whilst monitoring projected demand against available infrastructure.