Shadow minister talks Gladstone health issues
A HEALTH policy written locally, better recruitment and retention, and tackling shortages in front-line services were just some of the topics Sate Opposition health and ambulance services spokeswoman Ros Bates discussed on a three-day trip to Central Queensland.
Ms Bates divided her time between Rockhampton and Gladstone this week in order to gain a better understanding at a "ground zero" level.
A registered nurse for 35 years and the LNP member for Mudgeeraba since 2009, she took a swipe at her Brisbane colleagues over health policy.
"Politicians are very good at doing policy from Brisbane and putting out a policy that won't work in places like Gladstone," Ms Bates said.
"You have your own challengesand it's great you're having your (emergency department) upgraded because it's much needed.
"The hospital itself is very old and upgrading the ED is all well and good... but when the population reaches critical mass we'll need to have an upgrade well before.
"The Mater (Hospital) closing its services will put more stress on the public system so maybe they need to be looking at other triggers rather than 100,000 population.
"If the ED and midwifery is going to be under a lot more strain because of Mater reducing its services you need to have a conversation about it well before that."
The Gladstone Mater Hospital will close its maternity service on Monday.
Ms Bates said claims of unnecessary strain on frontline services at Gladstone Hospital fell squarely on the shoulders of Health Minister Steven Miles.
"The minister for health's job is to resource the frontline and that's not just your nurses and your doctors," Ms Bates said.
"It's the ancillary services that keep a hospital ticking over like your cleaners, caterers and wards people.
"The hospital won't run unless those services run... the buck stops with the health minister and Steven Miles has the purse strings."
Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service chief executive Steve Williamson said CQ Health's strategic vision, Destination 2030: Great Care for Central Queenslanders, sets the target of developing Gladstone as a comprehensive general hospital by 2030.
Mr Williamson said Gladstone's population was predicted to reach 100,000 by "about 2032".
The region's population was just over 67,000 during the 2016 census.
"A comprehensive general hospital includes an Intensive Care Unit," Mr Williamson said.
"The development and implementation of a plan for controlled service development that would allow an ICU to be delivered by 2030 will ensure CQ Health is prepared if there is significant unpredicted population growth.
"If we are able to identify an appropriate way to make an ICU safe and sustainable, and ensuring that our clinicians are able to maintain their essential currency of practice, we want to be in a position to deliver an ICU sooner."
Ms Bates said retaining a health identity meant "building resilience" in rural and regional areas in order to recruit and attract staff.
"You need to build resilience out in the rural areas such as increasing the number of rural generalists in places like Biloela and Theodore for instance who can do things like operations and anaesthetics," she said.
"You also need to be able to attract and retain the nursing staff and allied health in that area to build resilience.
"The biggest issue I've seen is recruiting and retaining staff - CQUniversity are training their own doctors and nurses and what they tell me is if they grow their own they actually stay in the local area so that's something I'd encourage."
Rockhampton Hospital executive director Wendy Hoey said CQ Health has developed strategic partnerships with several universities including James Cook University and Queensland University, but it has a particularly close relationship with CQUni.
"That relationship includes the joint investigation of developing a medical school which would attract and retain doctors to Central Queensland," Ms Hoey said.
Ms Hoey stated that other initiatives between CQUni and CQ Health included: clinical placements to all maternity, nursing and allied health courses, joint CQUni/CQ Health appointment in nursing and the ongoing development of other joint appointment opportunities across other professions and acceptance of CQUni graduates into all our graduate programs offering regional, rural and remote placements and development.
As far as what the LNP can do to fix Gladstone's health service issues, Ms Bates said her role was to hold the state government to account.
"But the main issues I'm looking at is ambulance ramping and we're seeing that all across Queensland, we had our ice policy out 18 months before Annastacia Palaszczuk had her ice summit in Rockhampton, (LNP leader) Deb Frecklington and myself have done tours of Queensland and before the (2017) election we announced four drug and alcohol detox and rehab facilities around Queensland," she said.
"Ice is an insidious thing that's happening all over the state and the other thing I'm looking at is mental health and the lack of mental health services particularly in rural and regional Queensland."