EXCLUSIVE: St John of God Midland hospital staff fear ‘inundation’ of patients when after hours GP clinic closes

St John of God Midland Hospital. Picture: Bruce Hunt.
St John of God Midland Hospital. Picture: Bruce Hunt.

EMERGENCY department staff at St John of God Midland Hospital say patient care could be at risk when the after hours GP clinic co-located at the hospital closes at the end of the month.

In a letter sent to Community News, concerned ED staff members said the emergency department already struggled to cope with patient loads and waiting times.

“With the closure of the clinic we are even more concerned than ever for patient care and welfare,” the letter said.

“This a serious issue that St John of God management have no answer for.

“They do not seem to grasp how dire the situation is likely to become.

“I can not stress enough how understaffed we are, how much pressure staff are under and how much we value the service 360 offers.”

St John of God Midland Public Hospital chief executive Michael Hogan said the hospital had one of WA’s busiest EDs.

“In 2017-18, we treated (more than) 70,000 patients,” he said.

“Notwithstanding that, we are also one of the State’s best performing EDs in terms of waiting times and triage, assessment and treatment performance.

“Most patients who present to ED go on to be treated in ED.”

Mr Hogan said given the low number of referrals from ED to the after hours GP clinic in the past, he anticipated minimal impact from the closure.

“In addition, a number of GP clinics in the Midland area provide after hours services that the community can access,” he said.

“The Midland community is being short-changed and once we let this service go we cannot get it back.”

The letter added that duty of care regulations meant staff could not refer people to outside services once they arrived on the hospital site.

“Not only does the after hours GP clinic divert patients from coming to the emergency department, but we also send them a considerable amount of patients especially when we have ambulance ramping,” the letter said.

“We can not refer people to outside services, even the Midland GP Superclinic across the road.

“East Metro and St John of God know this, but choose to ignore it.”

St John of God said referrals from ED to after hours GP clinics were rarely required and would only occur after appropriate clinical assessment.

The 360 Health + Community run after hours GP clinic will close on November 30.

Earlier this month chief executive Elizabeth Barnes said despite treating 20,000 patients in the past year, the clinic was not financially sustainable.

An East Metropolitan Health Service spokeswoman said they were examining an alternative service to assist patients who had chronic conditions to better coordinate their care.

She said the service would also reduce chronic patients’ dependence on hospital-based care.