Police Jump the Emergency Queue at Rockingham Hospital

South Metro Constable Luke Barron-Sullivan, Rockingham General Hospital clinical nurse manager Kelly Jessop, emergency consultant Stephen Grainger and Senior Constable Andrew Page.
South Metro Constable Luke Barron-Sullivan, Rockingham General Hospital clinical nurse manager Kelly Jessop, emergency consultant Stephen Grainger and Senior Constable Andrew Page.

THE Australian Medical Association expressed concern this week about a trial underway at Rockingham General Hospital (RGH) that allows people brought in with police to jump the queue at Emergency.

WA Police promoted the new agreement with the hospital on its Facebook page, saying that after its first week it was already saving hours of police time.

South Metro Response Controller Senior Sergeant Stephen Castledine said the initiative involved a dedicated phone number for police so officers could advise RGH when they had a person in their care or custody requiring assistance.

A brief description of the person’s condition and an ETA is then provided and hospital staff prepare a room so that treatment is usually available within 10 to 15 minutes.

WA Police confirmed that it was an initiative for any police officer attending Rockingham General Hospital.

The hospital’s executive director Geraldine Carton said the staff priority was to provide safe, quality care to patients.

“This can be challenging with patients who are verbally or physically threatening to staff who have a duty of care to maintain both their own safety and that of the other patients they are caring for,” she said.

“In an effort to get back to basics, we introduced an initiative to streamline access to care for those in custody.”

The Department of Health’s performance reports show that under normal triage guidelines, people considered as a Category 1 should be seen immediately, Category 2 within 10 minutes, Category 3 within 30 minutes, Category 4 within an hour and Category 5 within two hours.

AMA (WA) past president Associate Professor Dave Mountain said the AMA had concerns with the new Rockingham Hospital trial.

“This trial wouldn’t work in a busier hospital, and it’s grossly unfair for other patients to be asked to wait for hours so police officers don’t have to wait around,” he said.

“Emergency departments are set up in a specific manner in order to streamline services. Adding a priority queue for those in police custody will only add dysfunction.

“The reality is we already try to get individuals in police custody looked at as quickly as possible, particularly if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“This is to protect hospital staff and other patients from potentially violent outbursts.”

The initiative won praise from WA Police Union president George Tilbury.

“The WA Police Union believes it is an absolute waste of valuable police resources if officers have to wait around in hospital corridors babysitting when they could be out on the frontline,” Mr Tilbury said.

“WAPU welcomes the trial initiated at Rockingham General Hospital and encourages hospitals across the State to implement this procedure.”