Patients' lives put at risk due to avoidable delays to their critical care  

4 October 2019

Patients could be enduring life-threatening delays as people are not being redirected or transferred from the overflowing Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit to other metropolitan hospitals with capacity.

Analysis conducted by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch), has uncovered a startling trend over the last three months. SA Health’s daily data shows that, as the number of patients at FMC’s emergency department and intensive care unit reach crisis point, at the same time the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s capacity to take these patients was not utilised.

ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM says the analysis indicates that a disturbing scenario seems to be occurring.

“It is truly frightening to imagine potentially life-saving treatment being delayed due to an administrative decision,” Ms Dabars says. 

“What appears to be happening is incredibly dangerous. People who are in an extremely vulnerable stage of their care may not being provided with the time-critical treatment they need,” she says. 

The ANMF (SA Branch) is calling for SA Health to provide answers as to why the usual practice of load-levelling does not seem to be being actioned. 

“We understand that in some circumstances it is not always in the patient’s best interests to be transferred or redirected to another hospital. However, we have to question why earlier this week FMC’s Emergency Department was over-capacity by 11 people while RAH had capacity for another 17 people,” Ms Dabars says.

“Similarly, we are left wondering why FMC’s Intensive Care Unit was over capacity by 4 when at the same time RAH had spare capacity in its Intensive Care Unit.”

Load-levelling is a process where, as one hospital starts to reach capacity in their Emergency Departments or in the Intensive Care Unit, patients are either redirected or transferred to another hospital so everyone needing care receives the treatment they need as quickly as possible. 

Notes to the editor:
Analysis was based on daily data collected each morning from SA Health’s dashboards.