PUBLIC hospital doctors are being told to send patients to ward corridors to meet targets for pushing cases through their emergency departments.
The practice is already in place at two major hospitals and SA Health has produced a consultation paper that says emergency department staff across the state should speed up the process of transferring patients into wards to help meet four-hour target limits.
The Clinical Handover Policy paper warns: “In turn this could result in allocating patients to a ward immediately, despite a bed not being available.”
Doctors and nurses say the policy puts at risk patient safety and shifts overcrowding from emergency departments to hospital wards.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation chief executive Elizabeth Dabars said the idea was “outrageous” and was designed simply to shift overcrowding from emergency sections and ambulance ramps into corridors for nurses to deal with.
A HEALTH Department policy directive that doctors move patients into ward corridors so that they can meet their targets smacks of another Band-Aid solution to hospital overcrowding.
“It’s outrageous to suggest that the problem can be solved simply by shifting overcrowding from the ambulance ramp to the emergency department and then to the ward corridor,” she said.
“We cannot fathom how moving people from an emergency department to a ward which had no available bed would be considered adequate policy.
“It will compromise patient safety and also their privacy and dignity by deliberately accommodating patients in corridors.”
The Health Department has been under pressure to run emergency departments more effectively since ambulance officers rejected a so-called “ramping” policy – keeping patients waiting in ambulances before entering the emergency department.
Ms Dabars said patients waiting in corridors would miss out on essential bedside equipment available in emergency sections and in wards, including emergency oxygen, suction devices to clear airways and an emergency alarm button.
South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association spokesman Andrew Murray said the policy was designed to “find places to hide people” rather than solving overcrowding, and the solution was to better resource emergency departments.
He said the public hospital doctors association also wanted the policy changed.
“This is yet another attempt to patch up the system and the administration’s attempt to distort the statistics by hiding people somewhere else in the hospitals,” Mr Murray said.
“This is a political solution not a medical one.”
A Health Department spokesman said the policy was designed to organise the safe and timely transfer of patients to wards.
He said the model was already in place at the Lyell McEwin Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and was being considered for the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
“The safety of patients is paramount and would not be adversely affected by these measures,” the spokesman said.
Ms Dabars said nurses were not opposed to helping to overcome overcrowding problems in emergency departments but did not want the problem shifted elsewhere. “If overcrowding is not acceptable in the emergency department, then why is it acceptable in the wards?” she said.
Ms Dabars said SA Health should overhaul its discharge policies to take pressure of all sectors of the hospital system, but the new policy was again focusing on hospital entry rather than discharge.
She said the construction of the new RAH with additional beds was still “years away” and SA Health should operate more efficiently by helping to keep people in the community when they did not need to be in hospital.
“Everybody knows how to get into hospital but SA Health spends little time on helping them get out,” she said. “If these out-of-hospital strategies are not worked on we will never have enough beds, ever.”
Mia’s 2 cents worth- wow the south Australian government is just discovering this now! I was born almost 54 years ago and born with severe epilepsy, it happened to me, my son was born in 1989 it happened to him, my mom was in and out of hospital for everything from hysterectomy to cancer to Propio spinal Myocloneus it happened to her. My brother came home from military service injured and even in the then military run daw park repatriation hospital he became a tenant of the hallway get over yourself Adelaide, is it election year? Are you try to seem all powerful for an election yes this needs fixing but it always has my aunt jil Murphy was a matron of a hospital so was my mom’s friend Rosalie and another old friend of the family in our house at Christmas the guest list read like a board meeting of south Australian upper level nursing and fire brigade this is not new yes it is deplorable yes it is wrong and people die because of it fix it stop pretending you just discovered it like a medical lassiters reef.