Priority Care Centre trials set to begin as pressure mounts on emergency departments

Image Source: InDaily

By Rebecca Copeland and Meika Bottrill | @beccopeland  @meikabottrill 

Priority Care Centres (PCC) will be trialled this winter in an effort to ease pressure on hospital emergency departments (ED) across metropolitan Adelaide.

Predicted to open in June, the Marshall Liberal Government is planning to open four PCCs, designed to treat patients with non-life threatening injuries and illnesses.

The South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said in a press release that this year there is an enhanced focus on hospital avoidance.

“We all know that winter is a busy time for our hospitals,” he said.

“We are improving South Australia’s (SA) health services to deliver high-quality care, while at the same time easing pressure on our emergency departments.”

Features of the new centres will include onsite treatment, and radiology, pathology and pharmacy services.

Minor sprains, suspected fractures, minor cuts and wounds, early pregnancy complications, urinary tract infections, and mental health concerns are all examples of matters the centres will cater to.

About 70 percent of people who go to the hospital don’t need the acute care emergency departments provide, and could be safely treated in a community setting.

Lynn Stratton, a South Australian ambulance officer, said the biggest challenge will be to change the habits of the public.

“I think the overall premise is positive in trying to do something about hospital overload, but it will all depend on how it is implemented,” Ms Stratton said.

“One of the big challenges would be educating the community sufficiently so they choose to go to priority care centres.”

Overcrowding is one issue emergency departments face, especially as health experts have predicted that 4000 Australians will die from influenza this year.

In South Australia, 17 flu-related deaths have already been reported this year.

This overcrowding has led to extreme waiting times in emergency departments, with South Australia reporting the longest waiting periods in the country.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) 2017–18 audit showed that 39 per cent of South Australian patients were waiting for over four hours to be seen.

This number is significantly higher than the national average of 29 per cent.

Furthermore, South Australia has five of the worst hospitals in the country when it comes to clearance rates of the most urgent surgeries.

The Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) states that these surgeries are recommended to be performed within 30 days.

However, this is not always the case and evidently shows us that our emergency departments need more support.

The Royal Adelaide Hospital had the worst performing emergency department in Australia in AIHW’s 2017-18 audit, so it comes as no surprise that senior doctors and nurses have been leaving the public health system altogether.

This has caused national staff shortages, leaving current staff spread too thin, resulting in fatigue and concern for patient safety.

The aim of priority care centres is to ease the pressure on emergency departments and promote a better standard of health care.

The 2017 SA Health ‘Emergency Departments are for Emergencies’ campaign aimed to educate the public on where to go for non-urgent illnesses.

“If you have a cold, you might just need some rest,” Dr Hendrika Meyer said in the advertisement.

“If it really is an emergency, we’ll be here if you need us.”

Despite the campaign, emergency departments are still inundated with patients who immediately ring triple zero if they are sick.

“At the moment many call 000 instead of going to a GP so I’m not sure how you change that behaviour or mindset,” said Ms Stratton.

“It would certainly be a positive for the hospitals as it could potentially reduce their total patient load, therefore improving patient flow from ED to wards.”

 

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