Ambulance Ramping
Ambulance Ramping

Patients waiting seven hours before they even see a doctor

Patients are waiting up to seven hours in an ambulance or hospital corridor before being moved to a bed, according to a union figure, amid startling warnings of significant pressure on the state's healthcare system.

The Sunday-Mail can reveal that not only have some of the southeast's largest emergency departments seen increased demand in recent weeks, but regions like Townsville and Rockhampton have also felt the pressure.

United Workers Union national ambulance co-ordinator Fiona Scalon claimed that since the beginning of the year, it wasn't uncommon for QAS to lose 500 hours a day because officers were stuck on a ramp with patients.

She said paramedics usually do half a dozen jobs per shift but this had reduced to one or two.

"The significant pressure on the system is felt mostly in the southeast corner but there are pockets across the state," she said.

"We have members reporting to us that they're waiting six to seven hours at a time on a ramp waiting for their patients to be transferred to care.

"There is a potential for a patient to deteriorate in that environment."

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said hospitals were recording increased demand because many people were choosing to go to an ED instead of a GP.

"Everyone will be seen but we want to remind people that we must see our most critical patients first," she said.

"In January 2021, there were 212,784 ED presentations, 31,954 more than January 2020 (180,830).

"More than a third of all ED presentations are ailments or injuries that could be treated by a GP or pharmacist.

"During a peak in demand with many ambulances arriving at the same time, our staff will always attend to the sickest patients first."

Ramping at the Princess Alexandra Hospital on Friday, March 2. Picture: David Clark
Ramping at the Princess Alexandra Hospital on Friday, March 2. Picture: David Clark

Data from October to December last year revealed all 4,234 Category 1 patients were seen within two minutes of arriving, while 77 per cent of all cases were seen within clinically recommended times.

On average, 34 per cent of people attending a Queensland public hospital ED weren't transferred off-stretcher within 30 minutes in January.

At the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital - 41 per cent of people weren't transferred within that time frame, while at Redcliffe Hospital it was 46 per cent, and 49 per cent at Logan Hospital.

It was recently revealed Queenslanders needing life-threatening medical help were waiting more than 18 minutes for an ambulance - missing the Code 1 target of 16-and-a-half minutes which hasn't been met since 2014-15.

A QAS spokesperson said it wasn't uncommon for demand to be higher at this time of the year due to seasonal and heat-related illness.

"There have been some peaks in the past week in line with expected seasonal surges," they said.

"Despite the peaks in demand, we've still been able to respond to our most critical patients within our optimum time frames."

LNP health spokeswoman Ros Bates claimed ambulance ramping was back to pre-COVID crisis levels.

Ms Scalon said when the union's members were spending the majority of their shifts waiting at a hospital, they're spending their time constantly having to observe their patient.

"They're not getting their breaks," she said.

"They're not able to finish on time.

"They're not able to go until the patient can be transferred to the hospital."

Originally published as Patients waiting seven hours before they even see a doctor


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