Ambulance code red because Victorian emergency department ‘has been worst in years’

Emergency services across the state are finding their patients sicker than ever.

The pressures include mental illnesses such as eating disorders and anxiety; cancer and other serious conditions that are diagnosed late; COVID-related chest pain; and injuries sustained on the road, at work and from violence.

Leading physician groups, including the Australian Medical Association and Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, are calling on state and federal governments to urgently address the root cause of overpopulation.

While ambulance ramps are the most visible sign of the crisis, it is being driven by something not so easily perceived by the public – a shortage of hospital beds to transfer people to, dubbed “access block”.

“Access blockage is dangerous and increases the risk of death,” said Victorian chair of emergency medicine, Dr. Mya Cubitt. “We have seen deaths while people are in ambulances or in… [emergency department] waiting rooms. Ambulance ramping, due to an access block, is not normal, it is not safe and it can be repaired.”

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Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid criticized the federal budget, which was delivered at the same time as dozens of ambulances were ramped up outside Victorian hospitals, for failing to inject much-needed funds into the health system.

Simon Judkins, an emergency physician who works in Melbourne and Echuca, said people had to wait up to 12 hours to be seen in metropolitan hospitals.

dr. Judkins said staff shortages in regional areas meant there were shifts where senior doctors were not present and “key diagnoses were missed or delayed.”

Meanwhile, cases of aggression and violence against health workers also seemed to be on the rise. He said there was a palpable sense of stress and tension.

Multiple doctors said bed shortages were exacerbated by the resumption of elective surgery delayed by the pandemic and by a large number of elderly patients and others ready to be discharged from hospital but for whom beds were not available in rehabilitation facilities. or aged care facilities.

Credit:Wayne Taylor

Victorian Secretary of the Health and Community Services Union, Paul Healey, said mental health cases had soared in the past three weeks and bed shortages had left acutely unwell people waiting for days in overcrowded emergency rooms to be admitted.

Mr Healey said staff shortages had again “exploded”, leaving hospitals unable to fill rosters as a growing number of health workers were infected with coronavirus for the second time in the latest wave.

Victorian president of the AMA, Roderick McRae, said this crisis could continue for years without urgent investment in hospitals and expansion of health care personnel in Victoria.

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The vast majority of emergency room visits must be over within four hours. In the past fiscal year, this happened in just 62 percent of cases in Victoria, according to the AMA.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s director of emergency medicine, Mark Putland, said it is now more difficult for people to access emergency care than at any time since the introduction of the four-hour target about a decade ago.

Associate professor Putland said emergency departments were a place to stabilize critical illnesses and make initial diagnosis, and patients who stayed longer were at risk of getting sicker.

“If you imagine you’re in psychological distress, maybe a little agitated, maybe struggling to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not real, and then you’re in a noisy, fluorescent place with a lot of color and movement , 24 hours a day… It’s very hard to get better.”

A Victorian government spokesman said the pandemic continued to put pressure on hospitals.

“We are investing record levels of funding and resources into our health system – to expand and upgrade our hospitals, recruit more staff, respond to COVID-19 demands and ease the pressure on our busy emergency departments,” he said. .

In February, the state government announced a $1.4 billion package of measures to reduce pressure on paramedics and emergency departments, including expanding COVID-19 treatments at home, establishing more local respiratory clinics and increasing paramedics at the hospital. put away.

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