Measured analysis needed when looking at demand on hospital EDs

The peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand says the greatest challenge faced by emergency departments (ED) is access block, meaning admitted patients are unable to access beds on the wards.

Commenting on the release of a Productivity Commission report into health, Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) President Dr Simon Judkins said focusing just on ED presentations and waiting times “does not tell the whole story of what is happening in EDs”.

Research has demonstrated that the vast majority of attendances at the ED are appropriate for the patients’ medical conditions,” Dr Judkins said. “Just because someone has been discharged from hospital doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t need to come to the ED for their care.”

Dr Judkins said frontline emergency doctors often looked after the most vulnerable patients in the community.

“A lot of the attendances we see are patients with acute mental and behavioural conditions, aged care patients, paediatric patients and those who cannot necessarily access their care in other places or, in fact, present with a problem with signs and symptoms of something that is potentially significant.”

While acknowledging it is important that people with non-urgent conditions are encouraged to seek alternative medical advice rather than present to the ED, Dr Judkins said looking at the issue of demand on hospital EDs required a measured and sophisticated approach.

“ACEM recognises that that there may be a gap in after-hours access to primary care services and supports the development of a robust system that targets those whose needs cannot be met through standard-hours services and who do not require hospital-based care,” Dr Judkins said.

“We look forward to working with health jurisdictions across the country to address this important issue.”


Andre Khoury
ACEM Public Affairs Manager
03 8679 8813
0498 068 023
[email protected]