Health & Wellbeing

Health service pleads to keep emergency department for emergencies only

Edwina Mason1 March 2022
Emergency department at Young

The emergency department at Young Health Service was inundated with cases in January 2022. Photo: Supplied.

The Young Local Health Advisory Committee (LHAC) has taken the unprecedented step of asking local residents to use the local hospital emergency department (ED) for emergencies only.

LHAC Chair Fiona Douglass said in January the ED had been inundated by individuals who had presented with a range of non-urgent symptoms from colds, sore throats, headache, congestion and sore backs.

“January has been a busy month for Young ED with a total of 587 presentations,” she said.

Over half of these presentations, she explained, were for non-urgent conditions, with the most popular time from 9 am to 12 pm, followed closely by 7 – 9 pm.

ECG machine

Not just a case of first-in first-served, the most serious cases are prioritised in the emergency department of Young Health Service. Photo: Supplied.

“Some people even came in seeking medical certificates,” she explained.

“Non-urgent things are taking up valuable staff resources and it can result in people sitting there for quite a long time which can make them cranky and frustrated,” Mrs Douglass said. “I think we’ve all felt that.”

She said in some instances that had led to people airing their aggravations on social media.

She explained the protocol for people arriving at the ED meant they are first assessed by a triage nurse and seen in order of the urgency of their condition, with the most serious patients treated first by a medical officer.

“The triage nurse is trained to assess patients who present to the ED,” Mrs Douglass said.

She added that patients with less urgent conditions may need to wait if there are a number of urgent presentations and waiting times vary.

After hours, it is at the discretion of the nurse to determine if a review is required by the on-call medical officer.

When contacted, the medical officer will determine which assessments and treatments are required at that time.

“Please consider if your situation is a genuine emergency before coming to the ED,” she said.

“If you need medical attention but it is not urgent or life-threatening please see your usual practice.”

Young Health Service sign

Staff shortages in Young’s medical centres and the hospital have been exacerbated by the regional rental crisis. Photo: MLHD.

“Even if you call helplines to discuss any symptoms you are experiencing – take some different avenues of enquiry and if you’re still concerned then go to the ED,” she said.

Mrs Douglass said she understood COVID was a very real concern within the community, especially in January when cases in Australia skyrocketed

“I think those anxieties have eased as restrictions have lifted and people are a little more comfortable,” she said.

Money, she said, was a big factor for some people.

“Especially as there’s only one medical centre that bulk bills, but I know if you do have a conversation with your doctor beforehand, they will look at bulk-billing.”


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She said she was also aware of the shortage of GPs in the town, with appointments generally not immediately available but efforts were being made to attract more doctors to the area.

“This also applies to hospital staff – we just can’t fill the vacancies – and what isn’t helping that situation is the lack of rental accommodation or affordable housing,” Mrs Douglass said.

To support doctors and nurses in emergency departments, the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) operates a sophisticated network of virtual medical support, available around the clock called Virtual Care.

This includes the Critical Care Advisory Service which provides high-level medical support and transport coordination, and the Remote Medical Consultation Service, which provides medical support for less urgent cases.

A senior ED medical consultant provides all medical advice and support from presentation to discharge or retrieval to specialist care.

“But right now we encourage people to seek treatment from a GP for non-urgent medical conditions, so the ED can continue to give priority to people needing emergency care,” she said.

The Young Health Service ED is open 24 hours every day of the year for emergency care.

In an emergency, call 000 for urgent assistance.

After-hours alternatives include:

Healthdirect Australia

Healthdirect provides health advice and information about general practice and after-hours medical, pharmacy and dental services in the local area.

Call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 or (02) 6207 7777 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours, seven days a week.

General Practices in Young

Boorowa Street Medical Practice

12 Boorowa St, Young

(02) 6382 1599

Open Monday to Friday 8:30 am – 5 pm.

Young District Medical Centre

16 Cloete St, Young

(02) 6382 1544

Open Monday to Friday 8:30 am – 5:30 pm

Open each Saturday 9 am – 10:30 am (walk-in only on a Saturday morning).

MedCIRC

50 Boorowa St, Young

(02) 6389 3717

Open Monday to Friday 8 am – 6 pm

Saturday 8 am – 1.30 pm.

What's Your Opinion?

One Response to Health service pleads to keep emergency department for emergencies only

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Trish roberts Trish roberts 10:46 pm 02 Mar 22

Hard one, if your child , yourself or someone you know is sick, do you second question it and risk making the wrong assessment about the situation or do you take them to see a qualified professional at the hospital. What might seem like minor aches and pains could be a heart attack, do you leave someone in pain or get them help. Drs say go to hospital, hospitals say go to dr,,at least if you attend the hospital you can be treated even if you do have to wait, my family’s not had a lot good experiences in the hospital system, understand they need more staff, doctors and equipment, but also need to remember the reasons they entered the medical profession and treat everyone as if there life depended on it and with compassion, we have good percent of drs and nurses that provide good care in our region, but there is that percentage of people who have had bad experiences with some of our facilities and bad experiences stick,, no one wants to go to the ermegency dept unless they have to but if your in pain, feeling sick or need help you go to the professionals for answers,,,

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