SA emergency wait times left lagging

29 January 2021

New figures revealing South Australian emergency department waiting times are lagging behind the national average simply reinforce ANMF (SA Branch) members’ serious concerns over ED issues.

“Lack of beds, the high number of mental health patients inappropriately housed for often days in emergency departments simply for lack of alternative accommodation – they deserve better - the exodus of burnt-out senior staff, overwhelmed junior staff, these are all just part of the continuing malaise within South Australian emergency departments,’’ said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj. Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.

“We had a guy (mental health patient) last week, he was 90 hours in emergency,’’ one RAH source told the ANMF (SA Branch).

“There’s a lot of mental health triaging. Like the other day when half our department was full of mental health."

The source said staff burnout was a major issue at the RAH: “Even this week we’ve got five extremely senior nurses finishing up, which is ridiculous. People are leaving because they’re not feeling appreciated. They’re overworked, they’re burnt out. There’s no upwards mobility within their job, leading to poor job satisfaction. The burnout is huge.’’

A Productivity Commission report reveals that 62.4 per cent of patients left a South Australian ED within four hours in 2019/20. Nationally, 69.2 per cent of patients left within this time frame, The Advertiser reported today.

SA’s emergency department wait times are also lagging behind the national average, with 65 per cent of patients seen on time last financial year, compared to 74 per cent Australia-wide.

“The figures reinforce ongoing issues of systemic bed block, access block,’’ Ms Dabars said. “The Department for Health needs to respond to the concerns of nurses forever overworked and over-stressed by the poor flow of patients through our hospital system.

“Mental health patients should not be left to languish in ED environments completely unsuited to their needs. More has to be done regarding facilities specifically tailored towards their treatment.

“Given the alarming prospect of a grave shortage of nurses in the very near future, now is the time to urgently address the issues that are making the nursing profession a far less attractive career option for upcoming generations.’’