The credibility of Queensland’s embattled Health Minister is on the critical list in the wake of a fatal car crash just 250 metres from Caboolture Hospital on the state’s Sunshine Coast.
The accident, in which a 97-year old woman died and two other women were seriously injured, occurred just hours after the Caboolture Hospital’s emergency department was closed due to a staff shortage.
The 50-year old driver of the hatchback was taken by ambulance to Redcliffe Hospital, 50 kilometres away, and a critically injured 77-year old passenger waited an hour at the scene before being airlifted to Royal Brisbane Hospital.
Until yesterday’s accident, Health Minister Stephen Robertson had been denying that the Caboolture emergency ward would be shut down. On 6 January, his office issued a statement confirming the emergency service would be operational “24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
In media conferences and press releases right up until Friday 13 January, Mr Robertson continued to claim that the emergency ward would remain open for business with only a “temporary reduction” in services.
Just before his credibility lapsed into an embarrassment-induced coma yesterday, the Health Minister admitted that the emergency department was “in fact, closed.”
The crisis began just after Christmas when it was revealed that Queensland Health did not have enough doctors to staff the Caboolture emergency ward. The credibility relapse was brought on by a serious case of blame-shifting between the Minister’s office and the Medical Board of Queensland, which is responsible for the screening and registration of the state’s doctors.
Yesterday, while those injured in the Caboolture collision were waiting for treatment, Stephenson issued a media release announcing that 163 doctors had been registered to begin work in Queensland hospitals, including 93 overseas-trained practitioners. With memories of the “Dr Death” scandal fresh in their minds, Queenslanders are hoping that the Medical Board has got it right this time and has actually checked the credentials of the newly registered doctors.
Meanwhile, the Courier-Mail submitted a sparkling entry in the national competition for the longest headline on a news story with a triple-decker, 20-word pearler that had 81 characters splashed across today’s front page:
What do you call a health system
that can’t cope with a car accident
outside a hospital? A sick joke.