Our Emergency Departments Respond to Cyclone Debbie

Emergency departments (EDs) across Queensland were kept busy last week following the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.

Mackay Base Hospital was just one of many in the area to see high numbers of patients in their ED, taking to Facebook to declare, “a record number of presentations yesterday with approximately 180 patients coming through the doors.”

The high volume of patients meant staff had to go above and beyond in order to help all those affected, an effort praised by Queensland Health and Ambulance Services Minister Cameron Dick. 

“In travelling through impacted communities and speaking to staff, I have witnessed the resolve and resilience of staff who worked in trying conditions,” Cameron said via press release.

“Some staff went to the extraordinary effort of bringing their families to the hospital so they could work lengthy shifts, rather than staying home.

“The experiences these dedicated QH (Queensland Health) and QAS (Queensland Ambulance Service) staff have shared with me have been nothing short of inspirational.”

While many parts of state have begun the clean-up from Cyclone Debbie, flood waters in areas like Lismore are still making that process difficult. With the Wilsons River peaking at 11.6 metres, its close proximity to the town has caused massive flooding and destruction.

“It was certainly devastating for a lot of the families and businesses in the lower lying areas of Lismore,” says FACEM Dr Matthew Verdolini, an emergency physician at Lismore Base Hospital.

“We also had staff who couldn’t get to work, either because they were flooded in, or they had to go home to lift things out of the path of the water.”

The flood waters also made it impossible to transport patients by car, making it very busy for the retrieval service.

“All our peripheral feeding hospitals were cut off by road, so the only access was via helicopter… we had eight choppers in the area helping move patients that would normally be moved by the road,” says Matthew, who is also a retrieval consultant for the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter service.

ACEM would like to acknowledge the hard and tireless work of staff in hospital and ED across Queensland.

Checkout ACEM’s policy relating to the preparation, readiness and responsiveness of emergency medicine systems in disaster settings.