Gladstone Hospital, August 21, 2020. Picture Rodney Stevens
Gladstone Hospital, August 21, 2020. Picture Rodney Stevens

‘Not enough beds to cope’ with major incident: Doctor

GLADSTONE Hospital would go into meltdown if a virus ridden cruise ship or serious incident involving numerous patients evolved, as it doesn’t have the beds to cope, says a local doctor.

This opinion comes as The Observer can reveal that Gladstone Hospital has less beds than both Maryborough, which has less than half the catchment population, and Hervey Bay, which has almost triple the beds of Gladstone.

When asked how many beds Gladstone Hospital currently had, what category they were, and whether the facility was on track to meet the 67 surgical and medical beds projected, CQHHS provided this response.

“Gladstone Hospital has 79 beds or treatment spaces, not including the four neonatal cots, Emergency Department spaces and three birthing suites,” a CQHHS spokesman said.

In documents from 2012, forward projections for Gladstone Hospital stated that it needed to have 67 surgical and medical beds by 2021.

Hervey Bay hospital currently has 209 beds, while Maryborough Hospital has 95 beds, both under the administration of Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service.

Dr Dilip Kumar and CQHHS CEO Steve Williamson at the opening of the new Gladstone Hospital emergency department on August 5, 2020.
Dr Dilip Kumar and CQHHS CEO Steve Williamson at the opening of the new Gladstone Hospital emergency department on August 5, 2020.

Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher has stated the purchase of the Mater Hospital will boost the number of beds in Gladstone.

The Mater Hospital houses 30 beds on its 2ha campus, according to reports by The Observer.

The new $42 million Emergency department provides and increase of 20 beds (from 14 to 34), but it is not operating at capacity, due to insufficient demand, the CQHHS has said.

When the emergency department opened on August 5, The Observer was told 14 treatment spaces will initially operate, which is the same as the previous ED.

To man the facilities, 32 staff including doctors, nurses, speech pathologists, physiotherapists, operational and administration staff were recruited.

“The department opens today with 14 treatment spaces and will gradually ramp up in the coming weeks,” CQHHS CEO Steve Williamson said.

Today, a CQHHS spokeswoman confirmed 14 treatment spaces were still operating in the ED, plus four short stay beds are open.

The spokeswoman said an additional four short stay beds will come online when there is demand.

Bundaberg Hospital.
Bundaberg Hospital.

Gladstone is often described as the “Industry hub of Queensland”, with massive facilities like QAL, Boyne Smelters Limited, Yarwun Power Station and Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun.

Boyne Smelters alone employees 950 people, according to its website.

These industrial facilities operate under strict health and safety workplace guidelines, focused on preventing and limiting any injuries.

But, due to the number of employees involved and the nature of the work, a local doctor who asked not to be named, said “the potential is there for a serious incident to occur which would see Gladstone Hospital go into meltdown”.

Rockhampton Hospital.
Rockhampton Hospital.

Cruise ships which have docked this year, the doctor said, have had capacities of 1800 or more passengers and crew.

“In the tragic event of a serious incident involving industry, or a potentially lethal outbreak on a cruise ship, how could Gladstone Hospital cope with its current bed numbers, no Intensive Care Unit and few highly qualified specialists,” the doctor said.

“Currently it’s impossible for the hospital and staff to cope.

“Every serious patient would have to go to Rockhampton, or possibly Brisbane.

“Meanwhile, the CQHHS continually states they ‘need to provision health services as close to the home as possible’ in documents and meetings.”

Bed number and population catchment comparison between hospitals in the region (Beds according to Queensland Health figures, population latest ABS LGA figure):

Bundaberg: Population – 95,856. Beds – 249.

Gladstone: Population – 63,412. Beds – 79 (59 according to Steve Williamson’s letter)

Hervey Bay: Population – 57,069. Beds – 209.

Maryborough: Population – 27,134. Beds – 95.

Rockhampton: Population – 81,512. Beds – 300.

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