Queensland tackles hospital bed crisis in bold move

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A well-known Australian theme park has doubled up as a medical facility, after leaked footage revealed a Queensland hospital is using the venue to house its soon-to-be discharged patients.

In a bid to free up beds at Gold Coast University Hospital, Sea World Resort is hosting patients who “no longer require care within an acute hospital setting”.

The initiative is part of a trial as the hospital seeks alternative methods to beat chronic bed shortage fears ahead of the winter season, with figures obtained by the Courier Mail suggesting there’s already a shortage of 211 overnight beds with this set to increase to 375 by 2026.

Queensland patients cared for at a theme park hotel

“The Southport Lower Acuity Accommodation is a great example of an innovative solution to the increasing demand for more patient beds on the Gold Coast,” a Gold Coast Health spokesperson said.

“There is a detailed clinical process for approving patients who are suitable for transfer to the facility.”

It’s understood up to 24 beds at Sea World Resort – the hotel attached to the theme park – are occupied by the hospital in line with the trial, with patients at the venue receiving care from nurses “24 hours a day, seven days a week”.

Doctors are also on-site with patients referred to the facility undergoing a medical clearance before they can be transferred.

“All the health care needs of patients are provided on site including medications, medical equipment and any dietary requirements,” the spokesperson said.

Gold Coast University Hospital patients are staying at Sea World Resort. Picture: NCA NewsWireGold Coast University Hospital patients are staying at Sea World Resort. Picture: NCA NewsWire

The department is yet to reveal how much the initiative will cost and who is responsible for forking out the bill, with rooms usually priced between $314 and $439 a night according to Sea World Resort’s website.

The Gold Coast Department of Health revealed the initiative commenced in early May, with patient feedback said to be “overwhelmingly positive”.

“This solution provides a comfortable, supported environment, where patients can recover while still receiving the care appropriate to their needs,” the spokesperson said.

However not all are pleased with the idea, with the Opposition slamming the arrangement in parliament, arguing it was a sign of the Government’s “failure to invest” in the health system.

“Has the situation become so dire in Queensland Health that hospital beds are now being replaced with hotel beds?” Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates asked.

The query amassed debate in parliament on Wednesday, given the trial wasn’t publicly announced by the Department of Health prior.

Liberal member for Bonney Sam O’Connor also questioned the trial, citing one elderly patient’s experience after he was transported to the resort following treatment for a broken pelvis which he sustained in a car accident.

“Rod was recovering at Gold Coast University Hospital after breaking his pelvis … Rod was suddenly transferred to a hotel room in Sea World,” Mr O’Connor said.

The Opposition has since lashed the trial. Picture: NCA NewsWireThe Opposition has since lashed the trial. Picture: NCA NewsWire

He later argued Rod’s bed couldn’t be height-adjusted to suit his needs, while the chairs “weren’t suitable for an elderly patient with a broken pelvis”.

Mr O’Connor’s claims were backed by a leaked video of the facility which mostly replicated Sea World Resort’s typical hotel rooms.

There only appeared to be one cushioned lounge chair, with the non-padded dining chairs and double bed unable to be adjusted.

Medical equipment like a shower chair and IV drip stand were the only indicators the room belonged to a hospital patient.

However, Queensland’s Minister for Health Shannon Fentiman defended the trial, arguing she was “more than happy” to talk to the patient about his experience.

“We will always take complaints from constituents very seriously,” she said.

“But these are decisions that are made by clinicians and we respect them.”

Minister for Health Shannon Fentiman has defended the trial. Picture: Dan Peled/NCA NewsWireMinister for Health Shannon Fentiman has defended the trial. Picture: Dan Peled/NCA NewsWire

She later reiterated the idea “was not a new concept”, with previous governments adopting the idea including the Coalition when it was in power.

Sea World Resort confirmed it is providing “a small allocation of sectioned off rooms for Gold Coast Health to provide short-term stays for low-care guests”.

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“The health and wellbeing of our guests at Sea World Resort is our highest priority,” a spokesperson for Village Roadshow Theme Parks said.

“The guests staying in these sectioned off rooms are low acuity special care guests and are being cared for and managed under the strict protocols set by Gold Coast Health and do not have access to hotel facilities outside of their allocated area, and we wish them well in their recovery.”

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