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.
“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.”
“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.”
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 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).
50 Boorowa St, Young
(02) 6389 3717
Open Monday to Friday 8 am – 6 pm
Saturday 8 am – 1.30 pm.