Ipswich Hospital ED under strain of record patient numbers
IPSWICH Hospital's emergency department is under serious strain due to a rapidly growing population with a record number of patients treated last year.
The Ipswich region is expected to be home to 553,000 people in 2030.
More than 72,000 people were treated in Ipswich Hospital's ED last year, a 22 per cent increase from 2016.
Patients have told the QT overcrowding in the department in recent weeks made them leave the hospital without getting the care they needed after waiting for several hours.
They claim patients were being sent to other facilities due to ambulance ramping, with beds unavailable for the large influx of people presenting.
The LNP say the planned $124 million redevelopment of the hospital has not factored in enough extra beds.
Last year, 15,722 patients at Ipswich Hospital were classed as Category 1 and 2; those with either immediately or imminently life-threatening injuries or illness.
There has been a 53 per cent rise in Category 2 patients in the last four years.
Ipswich Hospital treated 99.8 per cent of Category 1 patients and 60.2 per cent of Category patients within clinically recommended times last year.
Overall, only 55.20 per cent of patients who visited the Ipswich emergency department last year were seen within the recommended time.
That figure was 56.2 per cent in 2018, 49.6 per cent in 2017 and 48.9 in 2016.
In the financial year to date, 68 per cent of ambulance patients have been transferred into the care of ED staff within 30 minutes, against the benchmark target of 90 per cent.
Pensioner Tammy Ramage, 61, said she waited 12 hours to be seen last month.
She was advised by doctors through the Hospital in the Home program to go to the hospital about noon on February 21 for a suspected minor stroke.
The Silkstone resident is on the program for heart failure, heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.
"I sat there for seven hours at first," she said.
"Then they did a CT scan and I was sent back to wait in emergency.
"They put me on a stretcher bed. I stayed there until quarter to 12 (waiting for a doctor to see her).
"I'm a diabetic. I hadn't eaten (since she got there). I could have gone into a diabetic coma. You would think they would see someone in my condition. They said since I had a CT scan and a blood test, I was classed as being seen. I did not see a doctor.
"Because I left the hospital they took me off the program. In the meantime, I've got fluid building up in my lungs. I saw my GP and she is dumbfounded."
She said she was angered by the decision and was struggling since being removed from the program
"There will be too much fluid built up (around my heart) … and I'm stuffed," she said.
"I think they owe me an apology but I won't get one."
Ms Ramage claims there were eight ambulances backed up for six hours while she was there.
"A week (before) I was one of those patients sitting on an ambulance stretcher for over six hours," she said.
"I go to the hospital a lot because I'm so sick. They're saying there's been an influx of patients. Patients were piled up everywhere."
West Moreton Health said it could not comment on individual patient cases.
Ipswich Hospital executive director Michael Lewczuk said during peak periods, patients who don't require urgent treatment may wait longer.
"At all times we provide safe, appropriate care," he said.
"We always prioritise urgently categorised patients immediately and we work collaboratively with the Queensland Ambulance Service to minimise waiting times during periods of high demand."
West Moreton Health is on track to deliver the first stage of the Ipswich Hospital master plan, which includes a new MRI suite opened in November and construction of a new mental health unit to be finished by 2022.
The next stage of the master plan for the expansion is in the "planning stage", according to Mr Lewczuk.
LNP Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates said the planned redevelopment of the hospital did not include enough beds.
"Labor's upgrade will see a lot more car parks but hardly any additional beds," she said.
"If hospitals are struggling to cope with patient numbers, it's clear resources need to be increased and upgrades fast-tracked.
"The LNP will also work with the private sector to ease the pressure on Queensland Health and also reintroduce targets to improve patient outcomes.
"There are 2518 Ipswich locals waiting on Labor's surgery waiting list."
Gailes resident Christine Springall, 58, was given a letter by her GP to go to the hospital for an MRI scan on February 25 for a possible minor stroke.
Her carer Norma Ellison said Mrs Springall was seen after three hours for a blood test and for a shunt to be put in her arm but she was sent out to wait again without having a scan done.
"Christine is in a wheelchair," Ms Ellison said.
"We were standing in the hallway because there was nowhere to sit.
"It was a possible (transient ischaemic attack). You can't muck around with stuff like that. It's classed as a small stroke.
"I was so disappointed how we were treated."
They left without getting the scan done and Mrs Springall's husband Edward said they felt disrespected.
"They said they had no beds," he said.
"They said they had no beds so they had to send people to Logan (Hospital). They didn't know when a bed was going to become available."
They have since gotten a scan done elsewhere.
West Moreton Health said it cannot comment on individual patient cases.
How to avoid wait times in the emergency department
There are several ways people can avoid long waits in the emergency department.
If the condition is not life-threatening, you should call 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for advice from a qualified health professional.
13HEALTH is a free 24/7 service and staff will give advice about whether they should call an ambulance or see a GP.
In the case of a mental health condition, called MH CALL on 1300 64 2255