QLD Health under fire for ‘making excuses’ on wait times
QUEENSLAND Health is under fire for making "excuses for dysfunction" over the hundreds of patients each month spending more than 24 hours in public hospital emergency departments.
In March, 638 patients stayed longer than a day in the state's public emergency departments before either being admitted to hospital or discharged - more than half of them in crisis-ridden facilities on Brisbane's southside.
Across Metro South Health hospitals, including Logan, Princess Alexandra, Redland, QEII and Beaudesert, 323 patients spent more than 24 hours in emergency departments with Logan bearing the brunt.
Queensland Health's acting Deputy Director-General for Clinical Excellence Keith McNeil listed "a range of clinical reasons" to justify why some patients are cared for longer in EDs than usual.
But the head of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Simon Judkins hit out at Dr McNeil's comments on Twitter saying he "clearly doesn't understand the problem and is making excuses for dysfunction".
Dr McNeil said patients waiting longer than 24 hours in emergency departments were still "receiving safe and skilled clinical treatment".
"Some patients are so critically ill that it is safer for them to stay in the ED until they are stable, regardless of time, before they can be admitted to hospital," he said.
"Some patients who are waiting for a family member to take them home or for an ambulance to transfer them to a different facility remain in the ED to allow other patients access to inpatient beds."
But Dr Judkins said: "There is no good reason to be in an emergency department for 24 hours, or for that matter anymore than a few hours.
"Emergency departments are for just that - emergencies. They are not a place to recuperate from illness or injury. Nor are they a holding bay for patients who should be in hospital wards, intensive care units and mental health units."
He said the main cause of long delays and overcrowded emergency departments was the ongoing issue of admitted patients having to stay longer in the ED because there were not enough hospital inpatient beds.
Dr Judkins renewed calls on Queensland Health to adopt a maximum 12-hour length of stay in the ED "by providing accessible, appropriate and resourced facilities to allow for ongoing care beyond the emergency department".
He said all 24-hour waits in an emergency department should be reported to Health Minister Steven Miles.
Mr Miles said Queensland's ED Network and Patient Access Advisory Committee were investigating why some patients were in emergency departments for longer than 24 hours and were working collaboratively with individual hospitals where this was occurring to find solutions.
"The majority of patients in Queensland are treated and discharged or admitted to hospital within four hours."
The 323 patients who waited longer than 24 hours in Metro South hospitals in March made up 1.3 per cent of the total number of patients who presented to public emergency departments in the health district.
Across the rest of the state, 0.18 per cent of patients presenting to public EDs waited longer than a day before admission to hospital or discharge.