Ramping reforms outlined
Experts say a major overhaul is needed to improve ambulance ramping in Australia.
The Australian healthcare system is under stress due to the increasing frequency and complexity of emergency department (ED) visits, leading to ambulance ramping as ambulances are unable to unload patients into hospital beds.
While the issue has become highly political, health experts say the problem has been brewing for decades due to a complete health system failure.
This is now prompting calls for a national overhaul of the healthcare system to get patients the help they need on time and prevent lives being lost in the overrun acute care system.
The Australian Medical Association's latest report card showed that no state or territory met its target for transferring patients from an ambulance to the emergency department in 2021.
Dr Malcolm Boyle, a medical researcher at Griffith University, says that ramping has been around since the mid-'90s, and no jurisdiction is immune to its consequences.
Ramping is the result of hospital “bed blockage”, with patients taking up a bed that they do not need, leading to clogging of the entire system and stretching of resources.
“The problem in the hospitals is what they call bed-block or through-put, depending on what terminology you want to use,” Dr Boyle says.
“You've got these people that are taking up a bed that don't really need to be there and that blocks up the bed for somebody else.”
The number of patients attending EDs has increased by almost 800,000 over the past five years, making the system busier and more stretched for resources.
The experts say that any truly effective solutions will require a national overhaul of the entire health system, and efforts to better coordinate services.