Hospital staff ‘threatening’ to paramedics, union says, as ‘incorrect’ hospital memo keeps crews waiting outside

Updated April 10, 2019 17:40:11

Logan Hospital has been forced to correct a memo it issued ordering ambulances to wait outside the emergency department with patients if all its offload bays are full at the facility, as the ambulance union says hospital staff are using “standover tactics” to keep paramedics waiting outside.

Key points:

  • Queensland Health director-general Michael Walsh is urging the heads of Metro South Hospital and Health Service and the ambulance service to sort through the issue
  • The union says the issue has come to a head in the last fortnight, with hospital staff using “standover tactics and becoming quite threatening” with ambulance crews
  • The state’s public hospitals in south-east Queensland have been at capacity recently, forcing the Government to release emergency funds for private hospital beds

Queensland Health has spoken to Metro South Hospital and Health Service’s chief executive Dr Stephen Ayre and Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) commissioner Russell Bowles urging them to work together to resolve rising tensions between paramedics and emergency department staff at the facility south of Brisbane.

Under a “rapid transfer” process put in place last year, nine designated areas are in place at the hospital to allow paramedics to offload patients into emergency departments, so ambulances could get back on the road.

Yesterday, Logan Hospital issued a memo stating that if all nine bays were full, emergency department staff should request paramedics to wait outside the hospital until a bed was available — a process known as “ramping”.

But Queensland Health director-general Michael Walsh said the memo was wrong.

“The process when an ambulance arrives is: the person is triaged and the most appropriate location for a person to be cared for while they wait — if they don’t need to be critically assessed and moved into the emergency department — is arranged inside,” Mr Walsh said.

“The memo which said that people needed to go outside is incorrect and has been corrected.

“I want to be clear that nobody who arrives at our emergency departments are turned away.

“Everyone who arrives at our emergency departments — whether by ambulance, by walk-in, whether by taxi or their family or carers — is treated in our emergency departments.”

Mr Walsh said the rapid transfer process worked smoothly at several other hospital and health services and he had urged the head of Metro South and the QAS to sort through the issue.

“That is something we need to hear back as to how they’re going to improve it and make the process work smoothly,” Mr Walsh said.

Hospital staff using ‘standover tactics’

Torrin Nelson, from the ambulance union United Voice, said Logan hospital staff were using “standover tactics” to keep paramedics outside.

“Our crews are being told when they bring patients to the hospital to not actually come in to the hospital, to wait in the airlock, which is a sealed-off area between the ambulance ramp and the emergency department,” Mr Nelson said.

“They’re being told to wait there or take their patients back out and load them into the back of their ambulances and wait in the back of the ambulance until they’re ready to be seen.

“The way they’re doing it is not just a polite: ‘can you take your patient back out?’ — they’re using standover tactics and becoming quite threatening with our staff.

“The big problem with that is it’s putting the patients and our people at risk because being in the back of an ambulance — while it’s well and good to get them from the community into the hospital, it’s not a safe environment to be sitting in for a long period of time.”

Mr Nelson said the issue had come to a head in the last fortnight and he hoped senior officials could work through a solution.

“It’s all well and good getting together and discussing outcomes but we really need to see the outcomes because while there’s still discussions going on, lives are being put at risk,” Mr Nelson said.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander said the issue was “a symptom of the crisis that our hospital systems are in”.

“It’s an unmitigated disaster — the hospital system is a basket case,” Mr Mander said.

“It’s been through a total lack of planning that we don’t have enough hospital beds and that we don’t have efficient systems to process the patients as they come into hospitals.”

The state’s public hospitals in south-east Queensland have been at capacity recently, forcing the Government to release emergency funds for private hospital beds.

The State Government cited an unseasonal spike in flu and heat stress cases for the increased demand.

Topics: healthcare-facilities, health, doctors-and-medical-professionals, government-and-politics, public-sector, unions, activism-and-lobbying, meadowbrook-4131, logan-city-dc-4114, brisbane-4000, qld, australia

First posted April 10, 2019 17:28:38

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