Ramping crisis a death sentence in waiting

5 August 2020

Ramping at hospitals will inevitably result in preventable deaths or harm to patients unless the problem is urgently addressed, warns the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch).

Last week it was reported that the entire metropolitan area of Adelaide was at one point left without any ambulances available for callout, with as many as 15 ambulances banked up at the RAH, spilling out of the normal waiting bay for emergency, unable to unload patients.

Severe ramping was also reported at Modbury Hospital and the Flinders Medical Centre. In addition to ambulance ramping there has also been a reported increase in the number of people waiting for ED treatment inside the hospital and therefore more hidden from public view.

The ANMF (SA Branch) is concerned by the continuing high numbers of people (often over 90) waiting for hours for an inpatient bed in Adelaide hospitals, significantly reducing the capacity of emergency departments to assess and manage new patients.
“Hospital overcapacity and lack of available ambulances poses an alarming and unacceptable life-threatening risk to members of the community,’’ said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.
“We are also deeply concerned at the number of mental health patients being housed ad hoc in emergency departments for long periods of time.

“Emergency departments, with all the high-stimulus bright lights, noise and pandemonium 24/7, are totally inappropriate environments for ongoing care of mental health patients … and have often triggered an agitated, violent response, putting the safety of the patient, health care professionals and other patients at risk.’’

The ANMF (SA Branch) is calling on all Local Health Networks to produce plans and implement measures that ensure that all people presenting to emergency departments are treated and either discharged or transferred to other more appropriate places of care within the target times.

We also affirm our position that internal and external ramping are measures that should not exist systemically and are a product of inadequate service provision, both within hospitals and more broadly in the health and associated systems.
“ANMF (SA Branch) members should seek to escalate issues of overcapacity and ramping to hospital management to ensure staff are provided to meet demand. They should report to us where staff is refused to maintain agreed ratios,’’ Ms Dabars said.