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ABC Posted Thu 17 Mar 2022 at 6:48pm – https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-17/albury-wodonga-health-call-internal-emergency-as-demand-rises/100917686
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Albury Wodonga Health has been forced to declare a Code Yellow incident after staff struggled to treat hundreds of patients in emergency departments at the weekend.
- Code Yellow is an internal emergency that can reduce the capacity for hospitals to function normally
- More than 200 people are presenting to its emergency departments each day
- Some elective surgeries have been rescheduled and ambulance waiting times are being impacted
An incident management team has been established in response to the more than 200 people presenting to Albury and Wodonga emergency departments per day since Saturday.
Chief operating officer Emma Poland said 227 people presented on Monday alone.
“People are unwell and needing emergency treatment,” she said.
“It’s really then about our capacity to see those patients in a timely way and then, when necessary, admit them into our acute hospitals.”
Ms Poland said the department was reporting a spike in category 2 patients, which are people presenting with conditions like chest pain or possible stroke and requiring an urgent care response within 10 minutes of arrival.
What Code Yellow means
The only other time the health service has called a Code Yellow in recent history was in May 2021, and it remained in place for around a week.
“It’s not something we do lightly and it’s not something we do often,” Ms Poland said.
A Code Yellow indicates an internal emergency that can reduce the capacity for hospitals to function normally.
With people presenting for medical and surgical reasons, the hospital has had to reschedule some elective surgeries to alleviate pressure and allow for more emergency surgeries.
Ms Poland said, despite concerns, the surge in presentations was not unusual or unexpected.
“During a COVID outbreak, the number of presentations falls to emergency departments. Then there’s often a sharp increase after,” she said.
“What we see is there may have been people delaying treatment. During that time they’ve become more unwell and they present to our emergency department.”
All people presenting to emergency are being seen and Albury Wodonga Health urged the community not to be deterred when facing a medical emergency.
“If you are needing emergency care, please come to our emergency departments. We will not turn you away,” Ms Poland said.
One of the key drivers behind calling the code is the flow-on effect to ambulance waiting times.
“We had patients on stretchers for prolonged periods of time. Obviously, that’s not good for our patients or our community,” Ms Poland said.
With ambulances waiting long periods for an emergency bed to free up so patients can be offloaded, some are unable to respond to other emergency calls, which Ms Poland said was a primary concern.
The surging pressure on medical teams comes amid calls for a new border-based hospital to meet the needs of the growing region.
Wodonga Mayor Kevin Poulton said health was an area that needed attention.
“Anyone who has walked into our local health service is always greeted by healthcare professionals who are working under immense stress,” he said.
“The second we fix our health and fix our education, the second these cities will take care of themselves.”
New department ‘unlikely’ to help
A new $30 million emergency department is due to open mid-2023 but Ms Poland said it was unlikely to ease the pressures currently being felt.
“It’s not so much necessarily about the emergency capacity. It’s also about our hospital capacity to support the admissions coming from those patients presenting to our emergency departments,” she said.
“We actually need the inpatient beds and capacity to support those care points.”
The health service has suggested a new single-site hospital be established on the border.
Albury Wodonga Health expects the Code Yellow to remain for up to 48 hours.
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