Patient flow still a problem as wait times blow out 

13 September 2022

Long waiting times continue to plague the health system with non-critical patients at Flinders Medical Centre’s emergency department waiting an average of almost nine hours for treatment on Monday and Tuesday morning. 

At the Lyell McEwin ED it was eight hours and six minutes on the Monday (7½ hours on Tuesday), Noarlunga Hospital seven hours and 40 minutes and Modbury six hours and 50 minutes. Yet at the RAH the average wait time for treatment was just 53 minutes on Monday. 

At one point on Monday morning the wait time at the LMH blew out to more than nine hours and at 3.30pm was still sitting at just under seven hours – compared to 2½ hours for the FMC. 

The patient logjam was reportedly due to ED patients who had been treated but yet to be placed in a ward bed. Across Adelaide, 12 people waited more than 24 hours to be seen. In all, 108 patients were waiting for a metropolitan ward bed at 8am on Monday, 125 on Tuesday. 

“The excessive wait times show there is still a long way to go to improving patient flow through the health system,’’ ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said. 

“The 300 extra nurses and 550 extra beds promised by the new State Government cannot come soon enough. We are again urging the Government to employ this year’s entire approximate 1,200 strong cohort of graduating nurses and midwives. 

“In years past, with the exception of last year, only about half of graduates gained employment and this has partly fuelled the problem of shortages that we face today,’’ Ms Dabars said.  

The wait time stats come as the State Government announced an entire ward of beds will be freed up at Flinders Medical Centre. With more NDIS and aged care patients to be discharged from hospital under a new partnership with a private provider in Adelaide’s south. 
Griffith Rehabilitation Hospital, at Hove, will provide 30 extra beds – more beds than a standard hospital ward – to FMC patients who no longer need acute care but require additional support before transitioning back home.  

The beds will be available to NDIS, aged care and sub-acute rehabilitation patients through a referral, freeing up vital beds at FMC and giving people stuck in the Emergency Department somewhere to go.  

The Government says the private hospital will deliver the workforce to care for patients using these beds, with SA Health providing social work support for complex discharge cases. 

A total 160 extra beds are also set to be delivered across both Flinders Medical Centre and the Repat, as part of the Government’s $400 million expansion. 

In July it was also announced more than 100 additional beds would be made available, comprising of ICU, ward, sub-acute and SA Ambulance diversion beds.  

We have long voiced concerns about the shortage of sub-acute services and are pleased to see measures have been taken to take some of the pressure off the Emergency Departments. 

Our involvement in a Workforce Planning Committee and a taskforce on hospital overcrowding, chaired by the Minister for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton will also allow us to work closely with the Department on short-term strategies. 

“While we know that these measures alone will not address the flow issues in the system, we will continue to advocate for the best outcomes for our members and the health system as a whole,” Ms Dabars said.