Emergency rooms now at crisis point
A CRISIS meeting will be held over where to keep excess patients at overcrowded hospitals following a fiery face off between paramedics and doctors at one of Queensland's busiest emergency departments.
Months of simmering tensions came to a head yesterday after The Courier-Mail exposed the existence of an extraordinary memo directing Logan Hospital emergency department nurses to order ambulance crews to wait outside when beds were full.
The memo was in direct contradiction to a new "rapid offloads" policy that allows paramedics to leave patients on stretchers in EDs before they can be seen in order to get ambulances back on the road.
The policy - introduced temporarily for the Commonwealth Games but since adopted - has caused tension between ED staff, who say they can't look after patients parked on unsupervised trolleys in hallways, and paramedics, who say they can't babysit patients in parking lots.
It led to an extraordinary attack by ambulance union United Voice boss Gary Bullock, who said hospital staff were putting lives at risk, and saw Health Director-General Michael Walsh personally intervene to revoke the memo.
Mr Walsh hauled the heads of Metro South Hospital and Health Service and the Queensland Ambulance Service before him and demanded they meet again today to explain why rapid offloads aren't working at Logan, Queen Elizabeth II, Redland, Princess Alexandra and Beaudesert hospitals, but are working at others.
"It does not work as effectively as it should in Metro South and I've told the board and the chief executive to find a solution," Mr Walsh said at a media conference.
He said an "appropriate location" would be found for surplus patients once Logan's 9 rapid offload bays were full but didn't answer questions around why stretched ED staff issued the memo to start with.
The Courier-Mail can reveal staff at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital raised concerns about rapid offloads with Health Minister Steven Miles as far back as May 2018, as detailed in a ministerial brief released to the Opposition under Right to Information.
"Patients have been placed on these stretchers, against doctors' clinical advice, and left unattended, which they believe is a risk to patient safety," it said.
Opposition leader Deb Frecklington said the "dump-and-run" policy was a disgrace and must end immediately.
"Our hospitals are at breaking point, which is impacting on patient care," she said, pointing to worsening ramping figures across southeast hospitals.