News

New campaign to divert less urgent medical cases to GPs


Doug Hendrie


24/06/2019 3:41:11 PM

An ongoing overcrowding crisis has prompted the SA Government take action in steering cases away from hospital emergency departments.

Ambulances
Ambulance ramping has been a major issue at a number of Australian hospitals. (Image: Julian Smith)

The SA Health campaign ‘Is It Really an Emergency?’ is aimed  at 18–34-year-olds seeking medical help for less urgent issues in hospital emergency departments (EDs).
 
Around 40% of emergency visits in the state are triaged as category 4 or 5, which are semi-urgent or non-urgent issues. Young people make up a disproportionate number of these cases.
 
The state is grappling with emergency department overcrowding, with the flagship Royal Adelaide Hospital rated the least timely emergency department in Australia in the 2017–18 financial year, while the problem of ambulance ramping has been dubbed ‘disastrous’ by the Ambulance Employees Association.
 
The issue last year forced the South Australian Government to seek 20 beds in private hospitals to deal with persistent overcrowding in Adelaide’s seven hospitals.
 
This year’s horror flu season, which has killed at least 40 people in South Australia, is further stressing the hospital network, according to State Health Minister Stephen Wade.
 
‘We know demand on public hospitals is increasing each year and what used to be seasonal demand is now year-round,’ he said.

Minister Wade called on younger South Australians to go to their GP or local pharmacy for minor ailments.
 
‘Patient data shows that about 70% of people who present to EDs in South Australia do not need to be admitted to hospital; however, the number of people presenting to EDs continues to grow,’ he said.
 
‘The campaign will help ease pressure on our busy [EDs].
 
‘We are very fortunate to have a strong network of high-quality GPs and pharmacists that are able to provide effective care for many ailments and illnesses and keep you out of hospital.’
 
The South Australian Government has also brought in three home-hospital pilot programs in Adelaide ahead of an expected state-wide program.
 
July will also see the state roll out four new priority care centres co-designed by GPs, Primary Health Networks and SA Health to offer another alternative to hospital emergency departments.
 
The new campaign follows a campaign targeting all South Australians between 2015 and 2018, which newsGP understands helped curb preventable admissions by 5–9% every year it ran.
 
Lyell McEwin Hospital Emergency Department nurse consultant Amy Jacobs said the new campaign targets teenagers and young adults as some of the groups most likely to attend an ED unnecessarily.
 
‘This campaign really drives home the message that some health issues can be resolved without coming to hospital and some ailments, such as coughs and colds, can be easily treated within the community without a visit to ED,’ she said.
 
‘However, it also demonstrates that real emergencies, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, should be treated seriously and require urgent treatment.’  
 
South Australia’s efforts come as Western Australia plans its roll-out of urgent care delivered in general practices, in a similar bid to reduce pressure on EDs. 
 
Other states are also grappling with overcrowded emergency departments, with New South Wales overcrowding forcing more than a third of patients with imminently life-threatening conditions to wait longer than recommended for treatment, while two Tasmanian hospitals were recently ranked the worst in the nation for overcrowding and ambulance ramping by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.



Australia care emergency department overcrowding South triage urgent





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