Neroli EllisTHIRTY patients were left waiting in emergency at the Launceston General Hospital with no spare beds available for them yesterday.

A spike in demand coincided with the planned closure of medical ward 4D.

The Australian Nursing Federation Tasmanian branch said a new unit, not due to open until January 2, had to be used as an overflow area.

State secretary Neroli Ellis said the “crisis situation” would become a daily reality as a result of permanent bed closures driven by budget cuts.

Ms Ellis said the hospital already had high occupancy rates and an average of 22 emergency admissions a day.

“Now with 44 beds closing, we’re going to see an increasing pressure on access to beds,” Ms Ellis said.

A new acute medical unit is being used as an overflow area to cope with the demand.

Ms Ellis said the unit was not ready, with furniture and medications still unpacked.

“There’s a whole range of inappropriate safety issues that we have raised,” she said.

Liberal health spokesman Jeremy Rockliff said phones weren’t even working in the new area.

“The hospital has literally run out of beds, at the same time as the Labor-Green government is closing a 32-bed ward,” Mr Rockliff said.

Northern Area Health Service chief executive John Kirwan confirmed ward 4D was closed yesterday as planned.

The 28-bed ward has been gradually emptied since the start of the month, with the final four patients moved yesterday.

It is one of the measures the hospital is being forced to take to reduce spending.

Twenty surgical beds will also be closed in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Kirwan said hospital staff were managing the high occupancy situation well.

He said there had been a minor problem with telephones in the AMU overflow area yesterday, which was quickly fixed.

He said there was no risk to patients and staff as other phones were available.

One category 2 operation was cancelled and a category 1 surgery, the highest priority, had to be shifted to a private hospital.

Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne accused Mr Rockliff of deliberately trying to frighten the community.

“To try and paint the LGH as being in a state of chaos is irresponsible and completely incorrect,” she said.

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