Hospitals where emergency wait is more than a day
HUNDREDS of patients are languishing for more than 24 hours in Queensland public hospital emergency departments each month, more than half of them in crisis-ridden facilities on Brisbane's southside.
Alarming figures obtained by The Sunday Mail show that in March alone, 638 patients stayed longer than a day in the state's public emergency departments before either being admitted to hospital or discharged.
Of those, 323 patients were in facilities run by the struggling Metro South Hospital and Health Service, which includes Logan, Redland, Princess Alexandra, QEII and Beaudesert hospitals.
That equates to 1.3 per cent of the total number of patients who presented to Metro South emergency departments in March, compared with 0.18 per cent of patients who spent more than 24 hours in EDs in other public hospitals across the state.
Despite an unusually high number of flu cases during the first quarter of the year, the figures relating to waits of more than 24 hours in EDs have been consistent since the data was first collected in July last year.
The Metro South board last week sensationally dismissed the health service's chief executive Stephen Ayre after he returned from leave amid complaints patient safety is being put at risk in overcrowded southside hospitals, especially Logan.
Health workers have been particularly stressed over mental health patients having to wait for days in public emergency departments, with the president of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine describing the practice as "inhuman at best and torture at worst".
The college has previously called on Queensland Health to enforce maximum 12-hour stays in emergency departments with "mandatory notification and review" of all cases embedded in the key performance indicators of public hospital CEOs.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said that since a meeting with the college president Simon Judkins in March, real-time reporting of patient emergency department stays of more than 24 hours had been introduced.
"Our ED Network and Patient Access Advisory Committee are currently investigating why some patients are in EDs for longer than 24 hours and are working collaboratively with individual hospitals where this is occurring to find solutions," Mr Miles said.
"The majority of patients in Queensland are treated and discharged or admitted to hospital within four hours."
But Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates pounced on the damning statistics from Metro South to call on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for Mr Miles's scalp.
"Annastacia Palaszczuk sacked the wrong Steven - it should have been Labor Health Minister Steven Miles," she said.
"The chaos and dysfunction in Metro South is another symptom of a system in crisis under Labor."
Opposition leader Deb Frecklington said the new statistics were a "real world example of how Annastacia Palaszczuk has completely wrecked the health system".
"This once again confirms our hospitals are at breaking point under Labor, which is impacting on patient care."
But Queensland Health acting Deputy Director-General for clinical excellence, Keith McNeil, said patients waiting for longer than 24 hours in emergency departments were still "receiving safe and skilled clinical treatment".
"There are a range of clinical reasons why some patients are cared for in an ED longer than usual," Dr McNeil said.
"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.
"Some patients who require isolation due to an infectious illness are better managed in the ED rather than a ward.
"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 in order to allow other patients access to inpatient beds."
Dr McNeil said Queensland hospital and health services had "robust processes" in place to manage patient flow.
The Palaszczuk Government introduced collection of data relating to patients waiting longer than 24 hours in emergency departments as a performance indicator in hospital and health service agreements.