Wimmera Health Care Group does not have an outpatient clinic. What is does have is an Emergency Department which is being inundated with people with paper cuts, minor aches and pains.
Wimmera Health Care Group Director of Medical Services Professor Alan Wolff said waiting times were getting longer for patients at the Emergency Department because of a significant increase in people attending with non-emergency cases.
“For every case that comes into the department, nurses need to assess (triage) the person and then they get categorised according to their condition and then they wait to see a doctor,” Prof Wolff said.
“That alone takes time, and for every person coming in the front doors of emergency there are people being brought in by ambulance for emergencies, or people on the wards and in intensive care who may need emergency treatment and for these reasons the doctors from the Emergency Department can get called away.
“So people attending the emergency department who are definitely not experiencing a medical emergency cause a backlog in the system and may be left to wait for some time.”
Prof Wolff said he and all Emergency Department staff understood this was frustrating for waiting patients.
“We are a public hospital and we will treat all patients, however we know people don’t want to be left in the waiting room. Our patients need to ask themselves, can they wait? or does their condition require immediate medical treatment? Is it an emergency?” he said.
“By all means, if there is any question in your mind that your condition requires immediate attention, we want you to call an ambulance or attend the Emergency Department. But if it doesn’t and you are waiting at Emergency because you couldn’t get an appointment for that day with your own doctor, please ask yourself, am I doing the right thing?”
Wimmera Health Care Group has placed a large amount of information about what the Emergency Department is designed for and how they categorise patients on their website. This information has been made available to help educate people on why they may be left waiting. The organisation has also started a radio campaign to get people thinking about why they may be waiting.
“Obviously it is a serious issue if we feel the need to get the message out there this strongly,” Prof Wolff said.
“The Emergency Department and its staff are under pressure and we want to provide the best service possible to the community, which is why we feel this education is necessary.”