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Ambulances queue in emergency

Alistair Brightman

SOME ambulance patients taken to Gympie Hospital on Monday were forced to queue outside, with every hospital in the Sunshine Coast region at "extreme capacity", the Queensland ambulance union United Voice says.

Gympie health region head Kevin Hegarty said no ambulances were "rerouted" from Gympie Hospital on Monday night and that patients within the hospital's ambulance triage area didn't have to wait any longer than 10 minutes.

But United Voice delegate Peter Griffey said a lack of resources in the health district resulted in some ambulance patients waiting up to an hour and a half at Nambour on Monday night.

"At one stage during the night, more than half the region's ambulance fleet was parked outside Nambour General Hospital either offloading or waiting for patients," Mr Griffey said.

Mr Hegarty said no patient in need of urgent medical attention was ever turned away from Gympie or any Queensland Health emergency department.

"The Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service prides itself on the close working relationship it has with the QAS," he said.

"This includes QAS communication liaison officers at Nambour General Hospital who ensure effective communication between the QAS and the hospital.

"The SCHHS continually reviews its services to ensure patient needs are best met.

"This includes refining existing practices and also adopting initiatives that have been developed in other health services and hospitals."

United Voice says there were no emergency department beds available at Caloundra, Nambour, Gympie or Caboolture hospitals on Monday night, forcing some ambulance officers to go "hospital shopping".

The situation has been described as "chaos", with the union blaming a lack of emergency department staffing for the backlog.

"There was no major incident on the Coast that sparked a rise in patient numbers, other than the usual random medical emergencies," Mr Griffey said.

"There are simply not enough staff or resources in our hospitals on the Sunshine Coast to cope with demand. It's nights like (Monday) night, where we are inundated with cases, that this really becomes a massive problem.

"There was chaos yesterday (on Monday) with every single emergency department full to capacity. Ambulance officers were forced to go from hospital to hospital. It was a disaster."

Mr Griffey said ambulances were ramped at most hospitals, while several paramedics had to work shift extensions and had difficulty getting a break.

"Recommendations from an expert group, set up to tackle the problem of ramping, were implemented last year and there have been huge improvements. However, unfortunately when there are busy days, the same old issues resurface."

Mr Hegarty said traffic through hospital emergency departments varied and the response from Queensland Health and QAS personnel was co-ordinated by a three-stage process of "escalation".

This system signalled when an emergency department had received an influx of patients and additional resources were diverted.

The Gympie emergency department had 97 "presentations" between 8am and 6pm last Monday.

Gympie Times

Topics:  ambulance, emergency, gympie, hospital




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