While emergency rooms around the country continue to fill up as the busiest months for hospitals begin, health authorities are warning people not to head to the ED for minor health conditions.
It comes as Queensland Health has revealed some of the bizarre and ridiculous reasons people have sought emergency help in the first six months of the year. People have sought urgent treatment for everything ranging from sunburns to bruises, and hiccups to even nightmares. Alarmingly, 32 per cent of the 155,000 ED presentations across Queensland’s public hospitals each month could be treated by a GP.
“Queensland emergency departments are seeing more and more patients needing care for urgent and complex conditions, and people seeking care for minor ailments put added pressure on our hardworking ED staff,” Queensland Health’s Chief Clinical Information Officer Professor Keith McNeil said. “In the first six months of this year, more than 290,000 presentations were categorised as GP-type, meaning they could or should have been treated by GPs or other clinical professionals and not in the emergency department.”
He said people had visited Queensland emergency departments for a range of minor illnesses.
“Of those, we’ve had presentations for acne, hiccups, ingrown nails, blisters, warts and sunburn – not to mention the thousands of sprains and bruises our ED nurses and physiotherapists treat,” McNeil added. “While they may well have required some sort of medical or other clinical attention, the emergency department is not the right place for these kinds of ailments.”
In addition to minor injuries, people are showing up to the emergency department for prescription refills, medical certificates and even contraception management.
“Our outstanding ED clinicians work hard, saving life and limb, and ensuring people are treated in a timely manner – these non-emergency and less severe presentations make it much harder to do,” McNeil said.
His calls were echoed by Logan Hospital emergency consultant Dr Scott Mackenzie, who said people with minor ailments could be putting those with serious illness and injury at risk. Mackenzie said that while no patient seeking medical assistance is ever turned away, it was important to keep emergency departments for those who need it most.
If you are facing a life-threatening illness or injury, always call 000 immediately. If you’re unsure, contacting 13 HEALTH for advice can help, while a GP or pharmacy can assist with any minor ailments.
“Pharmacies are great for helping with conditions such as cold and flu symptoms, skin conditions and irritations, minor or mild allergy symptoms, mild headaches, diarrhoea or constipation, or sleeping problems,” McNeil added. “GPs can treat many conditions you might otherwise go to an emergency department for, such as removing stitches, sprains and strains, bites and stings, many viral and other infections, and assessment of prolonged illness or injury.”