Toowoomba Hospital. July 2019
Toowoomba Hospital. July 2019 Bev Lacey

The huge problem facing Darling Downs Health

THE Darling Downs Health services needs a massive infrastructure investment from the State and Federal Government to continue to operate efficiently a new report has found.

The service recently released its annual report which found "many of (the service's) facilities were built in a time when the need for security infrastructure to protect staff and patients was not a consideration".

"Unfortunately, this is no longer the case and consequently, the need for an injection of funding for security and nursing accommodation features highly in our numerous infrastructure priorities," the report found.

"Darling Downs Health requires significant capital expenditure in the short to medium term to prevent continued deterioration of assets.

"Darling Downs Health manages an extremely decentralised and aging asset base providing ongoing challenges for demand capacity management, patient flow efficiencies, staff and patient security, and staff recruitment and retention."

Darling Downs Health operates the public hospitals in Toowoomba, the Southern Downs, the Western Downs and the South Burnett. 

The report found the condition of the service's building assets and the remoteness of some of the facilities did have a direct effect on the service's ability to recruit and maintain staff.

Darling Downs Health is currently developing a business case for a new Toowoomba Hospital to be built at the Baillie Henderson Campus and is also currently constructing a new hospital at Kingaroy.

"Toowoomba Hospital has been consistently over capacity since 2015 and the need for a new hospital is our highest priority other than the completion of the new Kingaroy Hospital," the report said.

"Our facilities were built at a time when the population profile of our patients was very different and building standards were also significantly different. Adapting to these changes with the current building stock is not cost effective."

Overall Darling Downs Health had a reported total anticipated maintenance backlog of $177,745,422 for the 2018-19 financial year.

Anticipated maintenance is maintenance that is necessary to prevent the deterioration of an asset or its function, but which has not been carried out.

"Some anticipated maintenance activities can be postponed without immediately having a noticeable effect on the functionality of the building," the report said.

"All anticipated maintenance items are risk assessed to identify any potential impact on users and services and are closely managed to ensure all facilities are safe."

The report said Darling Downs Health was engaging with the Department of Health around adequate levels of funding for the backlog of repairs.

Darling Downs Health achieved a balanced budget for the 2018-19 year and reported a surplus of $2.4 million in 2018-19 compared to $4.1 million in 2017-18

About 34.98 per cent of that budget was spent in Toowoomba.

About 68.55 per cent of the budget went to staff wages, while 26.66 per cent went to supplies and services.

"Emergency Departments throughout Darling Downs Health saw a total of 159,530 patients this financial year," the report said.

"The percentage of Category 1 and 3 patients seen in the recommended times was slightly lower than the 2018-19 target, falling short of the targets by 4.2 and 0.8 per cent respectively.

"The completion of the $3 million redevelopment of the Warwick Hospital Emergency Department in 2018-19 will help improve progress towards future targets, with an increase in treatment bays, short stay bays and triage bays, including an ambulance triage bay."

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