WHEN is a bed a bed? When is it not a chair or something "other" than a bed.
This was not the subject of abstract philosophical discussion but the question at the centre of heated political debate in the NSW Parliament yesterday.
The discussion about bed numbers and definitions, which fell into Yes Minister-style farce, began when the Labor MP Luke Foley asked the Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, to explain the "magical" appearance of an extra 2009 beds and treatment spaces in the latest NSW Health annual report.
Mrs Skinner told a budget estimates hearing it was because she had changed the definitions of a bed and hospital treatment spaces in response to the former Labor government's inclusion of recliner chairs and bassinets in hospital bed occupancy levels.
"We have now broken down how we report those beds to be more accurate," she said.
A fact sheet providing the new definitions released by Mrs Skinner's office this year said a true bed was one that was available to admit a patient from the emergency department. "Other hospital beds" include those in specialist units and those used for aged and home care.
Treatment spaces include hospital transit lounges, delivery suites including baby bassinets and dialysis chairs.
Mr Foley accused Mrs Skinner of fudging the figures to make it appear there were more beds but Mrs Skinner countered that her system was far more transparent than that of Labor.
When Mr Foley asked if a chair was a bed, Mrs Skinner said a chair was a "treatment space".
"If it is a recliner chair in things like oncology and renal dialysis, it is a treatment space," she said. "It is equivalent to a bed."
Mr Foley: "Are we sitting on the equivalent of a bed now?"
Mrs Skinner: "I'm not being treated I don't think sir, am I?"
Mr Foley said if his wife went into hospital to have another baby, the chair she sat in while her contractions quickened would be counted as a bed, the delivery suite would be counted as a bed, the recovery room would be a bed, the bed she would then be confined to would be a bed, and the bassinet for the baby would be counted as another bed.
"You're a miracle worker, minister," he said. "One woman delivers one baby and you deliver five beds."