Emergencies happen: how to effectively navigate the hospital system

Sep 27, 2022
Queenslanders have access to world-class emergency departments via a vast network of well-resourced public hospitals. Source: Getty Images

We can never be sure when or if serious injury or illness will strike. So it’s reassuring to know that if we do need emergency medical care, we have access to world-class emergency departments via a vast network of well-resourced public hospitals and health services throughout Queensland. 

Emergency departments are very busy environments where complex assessments, decisions and actions are made quickly. From the paramedics in the ambulance to the emergency nurses, doctors and allied health staff, emergency staff are trained to provide urgent medical assessments and care, and help you through what can be a scary and bewildering life event. The most important thing to know is that you will receive care when you need it, but the sickest patients will always be seen first and if your condition is not urgent, you may have to wait.

More than one million Queenslanders went to the emergency department last year with conditions that could have been treated by a doctor or pharmacist instead, including treatments for things like sprained ankles, foot blisters and the hiccups

How to assess whether you need to go to the emergency department

Recognising whether accidents or illnesses require emergency assistance can be difficult. If you are unsure if the situation is an emergency or not, call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for advice from qualified health professionals. 

This free 24-hour service connects you with a registered nurse, who will advise you if you need to go to a GP or emergency department. 

If the situation is a life-threatening emergency, call Triple Zero (000). If you need an ambulance, the paramedics will decide on your care once they arrive. This may include taking you to the nearest emergency department or treating you at the scene.

Knowing when a visit to the emergency department is necessary to help the highly trained emergency department staff provide the best possible care to those who need it most.

What to expect if it’s an emergency 

In most parts of Queensland, your nearest emergency department will be open day and night. To help you feel less overwhelmed and improve overall quality of care, it helps if you understand what happens once you arrive through the doors of an emergency department. 

No appointment is necessary and when you arrive, you will be asked for your details and Medicare card. Emergency departments are busy places so you will be assessed and the more serious your condition is, the more quickly you will be tended to.

What happens after your consultation will vary depending on your condition. There are a few things that may happen next, you may need to:

  • See a doctor, nurse practitioner or other medical specialist
  • Be admitted to the hospital
  • Be observed for a while longer by staff
  • Undergo some tests e.g. blood tests, X-rays
  • Get a treatment plan, including any required medication, to address your condition in the immediate and short term
  • Be transferred to another hospital or health care facility, if needed 

How do I find the right health service?

The Queensland Government’s ongoing investment in our healthcare system means we will always have access to the right care, at the right time, in the right place. However, we must all do our part to ensure the system is used as best as possible.

If you, or someone you are caring for, become unwell or are injured, and you think that the condition is life-threatening or causing severe discomfort, the emergency department is the right place to be. In the event of a medical emergency, always call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.  

GPs can treat many general conditions and some areas in Queensland even have after-hours GP clinics and pharmacies, or late-night GPs who will come to your home. You can call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) or search the health services directory to find out if there are any services close to you. 

By understanding when to visit the emergency department, you’ll help the highly trained emergency department staff to do what they do best – provide emergency treatment to people whose lives are on the line.     

To learn more about how to effectively navigate the hospital system, visit the Queensland Plan website.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

The Queensland Health and Hospitals Plan

Queensland Health is committed to better, quicker healthcare for all. If you want to know more about how the Queensland Health Plan can support you and your community, including alternative ways to access care, call 13 HEALTH or click the link below for more information.

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