North Queensland representative for AMA Queensland Dr Michael Clements. Picture: Zak Simmonds
North Queensland representative for AMA Queensland Dr Michael Clements. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Qld hospital 'turning away addicts' it can't treat: doctors

THE Australian Medical Association Queensland has accused Townsville Hospital's Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs service (ATODs) of turning away desperate addicts and being under-resourced, Townsville Bulletin reports.

Townsville GP Michael Clements, also AMAQ's North area representative, said a patient this week had visited Townsville Hospital and Health Service's ATODs and was told he could not be fully assessed until January.

THHS acting chief executive Kieran Keyes last night dismissed the claims and said Dr Clements had not raised his concerns with the service nor provided any detail about the patient he referred to.

Dr Clements said North Queensland was facing an ice and opiate epidemic. "He (the patient) was given some clean needles and told to keep using until ATODs could see him again in the New Year," he said.

Dr Clements said the drug problem in Townsville was bad and action was needed.

"ATODs is clearly under-resourced," he said.

"A new rehabilitation centre operated by the Salvation Army opened in Townsville in September and was fully booked within weeks."

Queensland Health Director-General Michael Walsh and AMAQ president Dr Bill Boyd are due to meet local doctors at a forum at Rydges Townsville today.

Dr Clements said the introduction of a statewide real-time prescription monitoring system should be a priority for Queensland Health.

"As well as ice, Townsville has a growing problem with the abuse of prescription drugs such as fentanyl and morphine," he said.

"Addicts are 'doctor shopping', obtaining multiple prescriptions for prescription drugs and placing themselves in great danger.

"Tasmania developed its own prescription monitoring system and has virtually stamped out doctor shopping, but we are lagging behind. If we want to save people from drug addiction, Queensland seriously needs to raise its game."

ATODs is an outpatient service, meaning those who use the facility are not patients who require a hospital bed.

Mr Keyes said it was difficult to verify the claims.

"ATODs have confirmed they have not turned any ­patients away," he said.

"There is a strict process for assessing patients, deciding on the best course of treatment - often using medications that are carefully controlled - as well as a staged induction on to the program."