Elective surgeries cancelled as SA hospitals overflow

Elective surgeries have been put on hold for “approximately a week” as South Australian hospitals struggle with a surge in flu and COVID cases.

Ambulances ramped at the RAH. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Ambulances ramped at the RAH. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

SA Health CEO Robyn Lawrence said today all category two and three surgeries would be paused, with only category one and pediatric urgent category 2 surgeries to continue.

“These are surgeries which aren’t as urgent as category one surgeries. They can include things like joint replacements, gallbladder surgery, those sorts of things which we know patients won’t typically deteriorate rapidly with,” Lawrence told ABC radio Adelaide this morning.

She said hospital networks had opened all available hospital beds and “maximised” out-of-hospital care options, but the level of demand required further action to free up beds.

She said there were more than 140 patients in hospital with COVID-19 and the flu, with metropolitan hospitals reporting around 270 staff are off work with COVID.

“Compared to this time last year, we have 200 more admitted patients in our system,” Lawrence said.

“That’s a medium-sized hospital of patients that we are fitting in our system compared to last year at the same time.”

SA Health’s emergency department dashboard showed that at 4.30pm on Thursday every public hospital ED was at “code white” – the highest rating above capacity, with the number of patients in ED greater than or equal to 125 per cent of total beds.

At the Royal Adelaide Hospital this morning, 69 patients have spent more than eight hours in the ED, including 17 mental health mental health patients.

The average time for a non-critical patient to be assessed at the RAH ED was 5.25 hours this morning. Non-critical patients at the Flinders Medical Centre are also facing a five-hour wait.

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According to the emergency department dashboard, 33 patients at the RAH have waited in the ED longer than the recommended time.

The RAH remains at code white this morning while the Flinders Medical Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Lyell McEwin Hospital and Modbury Hospital have been downgraded to code red (total number of patients between 95 per cent and 125 per cent of total beds).

Opposition leader David Speirs said South Australia’s public hospitals were in a “dangerous pattern” of overload.

“Peter Malinauskas promised to ‘fix ramping’, but our hospitals have never been so overloaded and on five consecutive days this week not a single bed was free for sick South Australians in need,” Speirs said.

“To see this chaos in the week before winter is alarming because the cold weather is yet to hit and we know, when it does, even more demand will be placed on our hospitals and frontline healthcare workers.

“This is a dangerous pattern which compromises patient safety, and places huge amounts of pressure on doctors and nurses, so where is Peter Malinauskas’ plan to keep beds free?”

more to come

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