Save the ED for emergencies

Released 18/08/2017

ACT Health is today urging Canberrans to save our ACT Emergency Departments (ED) for genuine medical emergencies following a succession of extremely high numbers of patients presenting to the EDs.

This is a typically busy time for ACT Public Hospitals, however activity is particularly high in both EDs at present, with over 1,800 presentations to the Canberra Hospital ED and nearly 1,300 at Calvary Hospital ED from August 11 to August 17 inclusive.

For Canberra Hospital ED this means that during this period, there has been an average of over 250 patients presenting per day, and during July and August we have seen a nine per cent rise in ED presentations to Canberra Hospital when compared with the same period last year.

For Calvary Hospital ED this means there has been an average of over 180 patients presenting per day from August 11 to August 17 inclusive, and during July and August we have seen a four per cent rise in ED presentations when compared with the same period last year.

This is placing enormous pressure on resources at both our EDs that are primarily utilised to treat those needing urgent medical attention.

The current increase in demand for ED services is putting pressure on our staff and we are seeing higher than usual waiting periods for non-urgent patient presentations. It is important for people to be aware of this before they present to ED and to consider whether their aliment is a genuine medical emergency.

It is also important for people to know what health services are available in our community, other than the ED, where individuals and their families can access appropriate healthcare for non-urgent medical issues.

ACT Health is working collaboratively with Calvary Public Hospital Bruce, the Southern NSW Local Health District and the Capital Health Network of the ACT to address the current increase in demand for health services in our community and how we can best support people who are unwell.

ACT Health is informing Canberrans in need of specialist emergency medical care to visit the ED closest to where they reside.

Similar advice is offered for people living in regional NSW areas like Jerrabomberra, Queanbeyan and Googong who should visit Queanbeyan District Hospital.

There are a range of health service options available in the community for people with non-life or limb threatening injuries to seek medical care. ACT Health is encouraging people to use these alternatives where appropriate, including:

  • Community Pharmacist – your local pharmacist is qualified to give you expert advice on many health issues;
  • healthdirect – call 24 hours a day seven days a week on 1800 022 222 for free expert advice and reassurance;
  • Walk-in-Centres – for one-off treatment of minor illness and injuries for those over the age of two, see a specialist nurse seven days a week. Walk-in Centres are located in the Belconnen and Tuggeranong Community Health Centres and are open from 7.30am to 10pm daily;
  • General Practitioners – for ongoing comprehensive health care for everyone, including those with acute problems, children under two years and those who have complex medical problems, your GP is your best option;
  • CALMS – 1300 422 567, the call centre is open weeknights from 6pm and all day weekends and public holidays, with CALMS clinics open from 8pm; and
  • National Home Doctor Service – 137425, from 6pm weeknights to 12pm on Saturday and all day Sunday and public holidays. All National Home Doctor Service after hours GP home visits are bulk billed.

There are two Walk-in Centre’s in the ACT and both centres provide treatment by a specialist nurse who can treat minor illness, injuries and other non-urgent health complaints.

There are after-hours options available for people who require non-urgent medical treatment outside normal business hours and ACT Health encourages people to use the services, such as CALMS and the National Home Doctor Service.

Information about the current level of activity in both the Calvary and Canberra Hospital ED is available at People who still wish to attend the ED are encouraged to view this page prior to attending, particularly as waiting times may be longer than desirable.

Those who are seriously ill with a genuine medical emergency, should always call 000 or seek treatment through their closest ED.

Media Contact: ACT Health 0403 344 080

- Statement ends -

Section: ACT Health Directorate | Media Releases

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