Catching its breath?

• Medical staff celebrate the opening of a new 12-bed respiratory ward at Fremantle Hospital.

FREMANTLE HOSPITAL has unveiled the first of three upgrades to reinvigorate itself as a centre for healthcare, however they have highlighted a much larger healthcare crisis in WA. 

The 12-bed respiratory ward, featuring four beds with oxygen saturation monitoring equipment, opened last week. Other upgrades include a new ophthalmology unit set to open at the end of September and a 40-bed upgrade to the mental health ward due to open in 2024.

Fremantle Hospital clinical nurse specialist Sinead McCarthy said the demand for respiratory beds was high, especially during the colder parts of the year. 

“The ward at Fremantle Hospital is equipped for patients who need respiratory care but do not necessarily require the higher-level sub-specialist services at Fiona Stanley Hospital, freeing up the FSH beds for those who need that extra care,” Ms McCarthy said. 

However, not all in the Fremantle community are satisfied. Heike Motzek (55) sufferers from long Covid (‘A long way behind,” Herald, May 7, 2022) and believes the hospital upgrades miss the mark. 

“I’m a big fan of Fremantle Hospital,” Ms Motzek said. 

“Any respiratory clinic can only be good. 

“However the type of service needed for long Covid is not an inpatient service … we do not need to be admitted. 

“Long Covid in particular needs a lot more outpatient services.

“We need a coordinated approach between researched funding, support services and rehabilitation for outpatient services.” 

Pharmacy Guild of Australia WA branch president Andrew Ngeow agrees the government has to look at alternatives to simply opening more hospital beds to help alleviate strain on the health system.

“The Covid-19 pandemic showed up certain deficiencies in our health system,” Mr Ngeow said.

He points to WA having Australia’s second lowest ratio of GPs per capita and a 2019 review by the WA health department which found more than 10 per cent of emergency department attendees could have been prevented by treatment in the primary setting. 

“The inability for primary healthcare providers such as pharmacists to practice to their top of scope has without doubt added to the pressures on the system during a time of workforce shortages,” Mr Ngeow said.

WA pharmacies administered more than 1.2 million Covid-19 vaccinations and over 500,000 influenza vaccinations in the last 18 months and Mr Ngeow says this greatly eased the pressure on the health system – but they could do more. 

“Professions like mine are restricted in our ability to deliver health care not because we are not capable, or trained, or have a lack of desire but simply due to the regulatory framework we are practicing in,” he said.

“Community pharmacy is an accessible, tertiary trained workforce with skills and knowledge that are being underutilised.

“To not utilise existing assets is illogical.”

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