‘Band-Aid solution’ is no panacea

Gareth Titterington prepares for his marathon of obstacles. Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au d402555
Gareth Titterington prepares for his marathon of obstacles. Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au d402555

St John Ambulance WA introduced the four-month ASCU trial on May 7 with $200,000 funding from the Government to alleviate pressure on hospital emergency departments by diverting up to 15 non-urgent patients from ambulance queues to be assessed and triaged at Hollywood.

‘Rerouting patients and then making them rejoin the ambulance queue six hours later is the epitome of a flawed system,’ Professor Mountain said.

‘The health department is just spending a lot of money to delay and compromise patients’ care.’

St John Ambulance WA clinical services director Ian Jacobs said following assessment, 9.8 per cent of patients were discharged home, 17.4 per cent admitted to Hollywood Private Hospital and 72.8 per cent transferred back to emergency departments.

Prof Mountain said the money would have been better spent improving capacity in Perth’s hospital system, such as increasing ambulance crews or opening additional beds.

‘The ASCU has the potential to mask ramping figures,’ he said.

Health Minister Kim Hames said early indicators suggested the ASCU had reduced average ambulance ramping times, in which patients are forced to wait inside ambulances until a bed becomes available.

‘However, given the ASCU was first implemented just one month ago, it is too early to comprehensively assess its effectiveness,’ Dr Hames said.

He said the decision to fund the ASCU further would depend on its ability to make significantly positive contributions to paramedic availability during periods of high emergency department attendances without compromising patient care.

According to State Opposition figures from June 6, ambulances were forced to queue outside Perth hospitals for more than 1200 hours last month, 500 hours more than May last year.