Ambos ask: Can overloaded SA hospitals cope with a major accident?

The ambulance union has questioned how Adelaide hospitals would handle a sudden emergency “like a plane crash or a bus crash”, with no inpatient beds currently available across the metropolitan system.

Jul 26, 2022, updated Jul 26, 2022
Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

SA Ambulance Employees’ Association general secretary Leah Watkins said she had concerns about how the hospital system would cope in the event of a sudden rush in demand, given it is already over-stretched to deal with the surge in COVID and flu cases.

“Whilst we’re in the midst of another wave or peak… if there were to be some sort of disaster on top of this like a plane crash, or a bus crash, or some sort of large-scale event, what is left in the tank for the government to consider to be able to escalate the response?” she told InDaily.

“They (the government) are making a lot of positive moves – they are taking action – it’s just hard to know what’s left in the tank in terms of escalating a response.”

It comes as the SA Health hospital dashboard showed there continued to be no inpatient beds available across Adelaide hospitals today.

The metropolitan hospital system can fit 2959 patients, but at 1pm, the dashboard showed there were 2868 inpatients admitted and 100 patients who were stuck in emergency departments waiting for a bed.

Meanwhile, at 1pm, a “code white” was in place for the Lyell McEwin and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals, meaning that those emergency departments had all of their treatment rooms being used.

Health Minister Chris Picton has repeatedly said that since coming to government, Labor had opened up “every possible bed across the system” to cope with a surge in both COVID and flu cases.

He said more than 210 beds had opened up in the past couple of months, including in peri-urban and private hospitals, with more expected in the coming days.

Earlier this month, nearly 140 NDIS patients were taking up SA hospital beds despite the government conceding they had “no health reason to be there”, while 69 were approved for discharge three months ago but a lack of disability housing blocked their release.

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The government convened a roundtable on Monday to discuss how the NDIS patients could be discharged from hospitals and moved into appropriate housing.

Picton told reporters today that 18 NDIS and 40 aged care patients were discharged from hospital on Friday, with a further 60 aged care and 10 NDIS patients due to be discharged this week.

“(That) helps free up that capacity for people who don’t need to be in hospital and to make sure that we’ve got those beds for people who do need to come into hospital and come into the system,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Opposition has called on the government to repurpose the vacant Julia Farr Centre at Fullarton, Parkwynd Private Hospital in the city and decommissioned facilities at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre into “step-down” hospital spaces for people who are ready to be discharged from hospital.

The Julia Farr Centre, which previously housed people with disability, closed in 2020 and is currently up for sale on behalf of a trust which is overseen by the government.

The old Parkwynd Hospital on East Terrace closed in April last year.

Opposition health spokesperson Ashton Hurn said more than 100 hospital beds could be made available if the government repurposed the sites.

“What we know is that there are hundreds of South Australians right now that are in our hospital system in a bed when they are ready to be discharged,” she said.

“That is causing enormous pressure during an unprecedented winter.”

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