Health Minister Jack Snelling’s promise to expand ambulance services to compensate for closing three Emergency Departments reveals a disturbing blindness to the realities of how people get to hospital in a time of crisis.1
Only last Friday, the Productivity Commission’s annual report on emergency services showed that almost half of the most urgent cases at South Australian Emergency Departments do not arrive by ambulance.2
“The Weatherill Government’s 5% increase in the ambulance fleet3 won’t help the 47% of people with a serious medical emergency getting to hospital under their own steam,” said Shadow Minister for Health, Stephen Wade.
“In fact, under Jack Snelling’s plan many of these people will find themselves living much farther from an Emergency Department.”
“For example, as the crow flies, residents of Seaford presently live about 6km from their nearest Emergency Department (Noarlunga Hospital). Under Labor’s plan that distance will balloon out to more than 20km.”
The mega-EDs – at Flinders, the Royal Adelaide and the Lyell McEwin hospitals – will have, on average, a 60% increase in their emergency caseloads, becoming the three largest Emergency Departments in the country.4
“Our Emergency Departments are already in crisis and simply would not cope with this type of surge.
“A dozen more ambulances will only increase the total number of ambulances on the road in South Australia by 5%,” Shadow Minister for Health Stephen Wade points out.
“It certainly won’t cover the huge impact of Labor’s dangerous plan to funnel patients into three mega-Emergency Departments.
“Labor’s Emergency Department plan is a dangerous, untested experiment that will have a dramatic impact on frontline emergency services.
“The Weatherill Government’s Transforming Health agenda is a desperate cost-cutting measure masquerading as health policy.”
1. Wills, D. 2 February 2015. “Ambo numbers up, fleet expands,” The Advertiser, p11.
2. Patients assessed by the hospital as being in the two most critical triage categories: ‘resuscitation’ and ‘emergency’ (Source: Table 9A.34 “Emergency department patients who arrived by ambulance, air ambulance, or helicopter, by triage category” in Report on Government Services 2015. Volume D: Emergency Management. Chapter 9 Fire and Ambulance Services, Productivity Commission).
3. As of 30 June 2014, South Australia had 236 general purpose ambulances (Source: Table 9A.39 “Ambulance assets (numbers)” in Report on Government Services 2015. Ibid.
4. National Health Performance Authority. May 2014. Hospital Performance: Time patients spent in emergency departments in 2012 and 2013 (Update).