Assistant Minister McBride – press conference in Townsville – 12 April 2023

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister McBride's press conference in Townsville about the new Townsville University Hospital unit.

The Hon Emma McBride MP
Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health

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EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: I'd like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and to pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to First Nations People who are joining us today.

It is such a pleasure to be here today for the official opening of your new acute assessment unit at Townsville University Hospital. To the Board and the Chair, Tony, to the Mayor, Jenny Hill, to your fantastic advocate and local MP Les Walker, and to the Acting CEO, Stephan. To see something like this come together takes the whole of the community, and I'm so proud to be here on behalf of the Commonwealth Government who has contributed $13 million to be able to have this really vital, new unit up and running.

We know that the pressure and the growing demands in hospitals like yours in regional Australia, particularly more remote parts of Australia, the demands that you've seen growing before COVID and increase through COVID-19, the pressure of presentations in the emergency department and what units like this do, and as a pharmacist who was the chief pharmacist at a local hospital in my regional community, we know that if someone is seen quickly and safely and gets to the specialist unit that they need, that they're going to have much better health outcomes. It also creates more capacity in your emergency department, and helps to reduce demand as we're coming into a really busy period, in the hospital and in your community.

So I'm so pleased to be here on behalf of Minister Mark Butler and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to make this significant investment in your community, which I know will really boost health outcomes and also, importantly, help staff. And I also want to acknowledge the staff of your hospital, the clinical staff that allied health staff, the support staff, it's been a really difficult time for so many people working in health and in hospitals.

We know the pressure that you've been under, and we know that the risks that you put yourself in to keep all of us safe.

So on behalf of the Prime Minister and Minister Mark Butler, thank you so much for what you've done, for what you continue to do, and especially thank you to Les' cardiologist who we met on the way, keeping Les up and running. But it just shows you having, as someone who grew up in working in my local community hospital, that this is really about community. It's about caring for people, but it's also about belonging and people feeling that they're not just going to be treated, they're going to be cared for. And I think that's what I've seen in visiting the hospital today and I know that this unit will really help to boost and improve. So congratulations on what you've done already, and I'm looking forward to having a walkthrough very soon after we finish that official opening.

JOURNALIST: Emma, can you tell us about some of the features of the new ward?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: It's so important to have a unit like this, an acute admission unit, improving patient flow from the emergency department. We know that health outcomes are so much better, if someone can be seen quickly and safely triaged through the emergency department, and then through this assessment unit, get the right kind of care and support to then move them on to the right specialist unit in this hospital. It improves patient flow, it improves health outcomes, it increases capacity in the emergency department, and helps to reduce pressure on your emergency department, particularly as we go into a very busy period into the winter months in the hospital.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it might cut down on some of the wait times and that sort of thing that we're seeing here?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER : We know that across Australia, there's pressure on hospitals, particularly those outside of major cities. And any initiative like this is going to help to ease that pressure so that people can be seen more quickly and safely. And I know that that's something that the State Government is determined to do and that we will work in strong partnership with them in order to be able to improve.

JOURNALIST: How long has it taken to get to this point of opening?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, I've spoken to the nurse unit manager today and I understand between the initial commitment and then the opening today has been two years and that is a very quick timeframe, particularly having gone through the COVID-19 pandemic to go from an initial concept through to a unit being up and receiving patients from next Tuesday the 18th of April.

JOURNALIST: How much did the Federal Government chip in for this project?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: So the Federal Government has committed $13 million dollars to this project so fully funded the establishment of this unit. I'm so pleased as someone who's worked in a regional hospital myself to see this sort of investment in the only tertiary hospital in northern Queensland, and really see the improvement in patient care that we will see through this unit. To see 33 beds and an estimated more than 12,000 patient days in the first 12 months, will make a significant difference to your community and the surrounding more remote communities that you service.

JOURNALIST : And just back to the timeframe as well, were there any delays in that timeframe?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: As far as I'm aware, this project has run to time. I know that projects like this, you have to do them in a very well planned, co-designed and well thought out way. The most important thing is about quality standards and safety. So I'm so pleased to see that in strong cooperation between the Federal Government, the Queensland Government, and your hospital and health service here, that we've seen this unit being properly commissioned, really well designed and receiving patients from next Tuesday.


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