Hospital emergency departments and staff are facing extreme pressures as we contend with providing ‘business-as-usual’ urgent care over the busy summer period, as well as increasing COVID-19 presentations.
Frontline staff are reporting that while many COVID-positive patients being seen at EDs are requiring admission to hospital, many also – although requiring clinical assessment – are well enough to be discharged.
We are also aware that many people who have received positive COVID test results, either from self-administration of a rapid antigen test, or following formal PCR swab, have been presenting to EDs because they are unsure what they should do.
Although these issues are currently being experienced most acutely in New South Wales and Victoria, where case numbers are highest, similar scenarios are occurring and emerging in other states and territories, and must be responded to and planned for as cases continue to climb.
There is an urgent need for a clear, concerted and consistent information and communications campaign to inform members of the public about how to test for COVID-19, and steps to take in the event of a positive result.
As the College has repeatedly said throughout this pandemic, the resources required to provide appropriate healthcare, across hospital and emergency department, as well as primary and community settings, must be factored into ongoing healthcare system planning and responses to COVID-19 from all governments. Reported numbers of admissions to hospital, or to intensive care units, do not adequately represent the pressures on emergency departments, or general practice, as increasing numbers of people infected with the Omicron strain seek medical care.
Significant workforce shortages, resulting from staff illness, quarantining and, in some cases, resignations, are making a difficult situation even more challenging, particularly as emergency departments continue to treat significant numbers of people with trauma, alcohol-related, mental health and other urgent problems over the busy holiday period.
Emergency department clinicians are weary after almost two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we are all under immense pressure, we are continuing to do our best to provide the highest possible standard of treatment to acutely unwell people requiring emergency care.
We continue to encourage anybody experiencing serious or life-threatening symptoms to seek urgent care at hospital emergency departments.
While our systems are under enormous pressure and things might be a little bit different, we are doing our very best. We ask that members of the public are patient with us as we continue to contend with some of the busiest and most challenging shifts of our careers.
As COVID-19 cases continue to climb around the country we also urge all members of the public to be as COVID-safe as possible; wear masks, be sensible with travel and social plans, and continue to seek vaccinations when eligible.
As a College, we once more stress the importance of involving and consulting with frontline emergency clinicians as part of ongoing government responses to the escalating COVID-19 situation.
With a number of important elections also coming up in 2022, one of the most powerful things members of the public can do is make clear to their state and federal representatives the importance of well-resourced and supported public health systems, that provide the care people need, when and where they need it.