Health unions have threatened industrial action and called for a circuit-breaker after a crisis meeting with the South Australian Government over emergency department overcrowding they say is putting patient safety at risk.
Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Phil Palmer said the chronic issue came to a head on Wednesday night when ambulances were ramping at hospitals around Adelaide, including one crew that waited for seven hours before their patient was admitted.
“If we don’t do something quickly, if we don’t do something in the next couple of days, we’re going to end up with another situation like we’ve had this week,” he said.
“A disaster where our members are tied up on the ramps of all the hospitals and the community’s not being looked after and there’s lives at risk.”
Mr Palmer said there was a lot of “goodwill” at the meeting with Health Minister Stephen Wade, but while many ideas were discussed, there were no immediate promises.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Elizabeth Dabars joined his call for immediate action.
“We absolutely need a circuit-breaker. People are at breaking point,” Ms Dabars said.
“It is unsafe for the community and it’s unsafe for the hardworking and dedicated staff providing care to their patients.”
“I’ve made very clear to the Minister that we are deeply concerned about the safety of patients and indeed the safety of the nurses and other health professionals undertaking the work.”
New initiatives to come out soon, Minister says
The unions said an immediate measure would be for the Government to open beds at the closed Daw Park Repatriation General Hospital, for patients who cannot be discharged but do not need acute care.
Mr Wade said he was also considering installing transit wards in major hospitals, creating more forensic mental health beds and finding a solution to people waiting in hospital for aged care or disability placements.
“This is not going to be fixed overnight, but I was very encouraged by the strong consensus around three or four key projects. We’re keen to roll them out as quickly as possible,” Mr Wade said.
“In the coming weeks, the Government will be announcing a number of initiatives coming out of this discussion today.”
Mr Palmer said “the coming weeks” was not soon enough.
“Our members are furious. We’re getting calls and emails demanding industrial action, demanding action from us,” he said.
Both unions are meeting with members to consider what industrial action they will take if the issues aren’t urgently addressed.