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Monday, August 15, 2022

Action needed to help hundreds of older Australians stranded in hospital: SA health minister

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Patients stuck in hospitals while waiting for a place in residential aged care or support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) be among the challenges tackled at a meeting of federal, state and territory health ministers this week.

Chris Picton, South Australian (SA) health minister, said that the issue is one of his top priorities when he travels to Canberra for the meeting on Friday.

“Every day our public hospitals are caring for patients who should not be in hospital,” he said.

“These patients no longer require hospital care and are ready to be discharged, but they are stuck in hospitals waiting on NDIS support or a place in a residential aged care facility.” 

Bed block – when patients admitted from emergency departments (EDs) cannot be moved to hospital beds because they are occupied – is a major factor in EDs becoming clogged, which ultimately leads to ambulance ramping.

“These poor patients are literally stranded,” Picton said.

Latest SA health data showed hundreds of patients were being treated in metropolitan hospitals instead of receiving federally funded care in the community.

On June 10, there were 282 NDIS patients in hospitals, with 129 ready to be discharged. 

Of those, 66 had been stuck in hospital for more than 100 days.

This has been a major contributing factor to the nationwide issue of persons under 65 — most commonly those with disabilities — being prematurely admitted to aged care, which is ongoing despite a federal government pledge to phase the phenomenon out.

“Currently people with disability are waiting a median of 150 days for decisions on funding for housing and support, often stuck in unsuitable housing, aged care or hospital while they wait,” said Di Winkler, Summer Foundation CEO.

But even those for whom aged care admission is advisable are being left on indefinite waiting lists.

In February, there were 53 SA patients ready for discharge who were waiting for a place in a residential aged care facility.

Picton said health ministers would also focus on national funding of public hospitals, workforce shortages, and how primary care could relieve pressure on hospitals.

“We want to work closely with the new federal government and with other states and territories to get our stranded patients the care and support they need,” he said.

“This meeting presents a huge opportunity to try and resolve some of those issues.”

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