The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) acknowledges that hospital emergency departments and their staff have a crucial role to play in addressing the ongoing COVID-19 situation and is calling on governments in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand to do everything possible to support and sustain frontline efforts.
ACEM President Dr John Bonning said emergency doctors will continue to step up, serve and care for their communities on the frontline of the coronavirus response, as part of entire healthcare systems.
“The skills, expertise and commitment of emergency doctors means we have a vital role to play in the response to coronavirus, and we are dedicated to working for our communities, and some of the most vulnerable in society, in their time of need,” said Dr Bonning.
“Amid the significant challenges there are also opportunities for collaboration and improved lines of communication with other skilled healthcare clinicians and governance bodies in our hospitals and health systems. The whole of our healthcare systems from primary care through to and beyond hospitals will have to rise to this challenge, with all healthcare professionals working within their scope to mitigate the surge.
“To support the ongoing response to COVID-19, we are calling on all governments to provide the resources, policies and measures necessary to mitigate risks to the community and healthcare staff, and ensure frontline efforts are sustainable.

“Part of this must be ensuring that all healthcare providers perform their duties and responsibilities within the whole-of-system response, which includes hospitals both public and private, pathology labs, and general and private practice.
“It is also important to ensure that there are a range of testing facilities and treatment options; not just in public hospitals and via their emergency departments; available to the community to mitigate risks, particularly for vulnerable groups in society.
“We need to accept it will not be business as usual, and measures such as community-based screening, the setting up of appropriately staffed respiratory/fever clinics alongside emergency departments and hospitals, or the cancellation, or moving to the private sector, of non-urgent elective surgeries to increase surge capacity will need to be implemented as need arises.
“Separate testing facilities in the community for otherwise well patients will also be very important in the context of safeguarding the health of the many vulnerable patients (in the case of COVID-19 this is particularly the elderly) who attend hospital emergency departments every day.  
“We will also need to significantly increase hospital ICU and in-patient capacity generally. Given the pressures relating to access block and overcrowding in hospital emergency departments already, these must be addressed both in the COVID-19 response, and on an ongoing basis, particularly with the looming winter flu season.
“ACEM continues to support the emergency responses which have been proportional and evidence-based, emphasising the need to remain alert and prepared, but to not panic.
“In order to best keep our communities and healthcare workers safe and address the COVID-19 threat, governments must do everything in their power to ensure the frontline of emergency healthcare is sustainable, hospitals have capacity for the surges and the staff working there are properly supported, now and into the future.”
ACEM is the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand, responsible for training emergency physicians and advancement of professional standards.