Labor pledges more ER medics

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Labor will help train more than 3000 emergency department nurses and doctors if it wins the next federal election.

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the announcement at Launceston General Hospital in Tasmania on Monday.

Up to 2000 new emergency nurses would be trained during the next decade and 1000 student nurses would also get “vital experience” in emergency departments.

‘Important work’

Ms Gillard said there would be 270 additional emergency department doctors in the next decade.

“They are specialist emergency doctors trained with the skills they need to do this important (work).”

The first will come online next year, with an additional 27 training places made available.

Ms Gillard also committed a re-elected Labor government to funding 1000 scholarships for emergency department support staff over the next decade.

The first 100 of those would begin on January 1, 2011.

‘Upskilling GPs for emergency work’

“I also announce that we will be investing in upskilling local GPs and doctors in outer suburban and rural hospitals to help them keep their skills in emergency medicine so they’re able to assist with emergencies,” Ms Gillard said.

Ms Gillard said while the training would be paid for with new money, she wouldn’t reveal exactly how much it would cost.

“Of course it is subject to our rules that every spending announcement we make during this campaign will be offset, so at the end of the campaign not one cent has been added to the budget bottom line,” she said.

Ms Gillard later clarified that the training went above and beyond the health reforms announced earlier this year as part of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.

New announcement

“This is new, this is beyond what was announced at the time of COAG,” she said.

“Provision was made for it in the budget and we are announcing the measures today.”

A statement released by Ms Gillard’s office during her press conference stated that $96 million for the initiatives had been provided for in the 2010/11 budget.

Ms Gillard said the government earlier this year secured an agreement with the states and territories to roll out a tough new national standard to ensure that Australians visiting emergency departments would be seen and treated within four hours.

Nearly a third of patients admitted into hospital from an emergency department – about 600,000 – wait longer than eight hours between the time they arrive and when they are transferred to a hospital bed in a ward.

“This investment today will provide emergency departments with additional staff to ensure they meet this four-hour target,” Ms Gillard said.