19/09/2021 | Stephen Wade MLC | Better Services

New data has revealed 69 per cent of people presenting to South Australian Emergency Departments (EDs) and 66 per cent of people presenting to metropolitan Adelaide EDs do not need to be admitted to hospital.

Furthermore, in the last year, the SA Ambulance Service (SAAS) transported 61,555 priority 6, 7 and 8 cases to hospital – these are cases that require some form of help but not necessarily an emergency ambulance response.

The new statistics come as the Marshall Liberal Government signs a new three-year agreement to continue and further expand its successful out-of-hospital healthcare initiative, Priority Care Centres (PCCs). PCCs are an alternative care pathway designed to divert patients with less serious or urgent conditions away from EDs to free up the hospital for those in need.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said ramping and hospital overcrowding is occurring across Australia and has been made worse during COVID-19, however the Marshall Government’s PCCs are helping to alleviate pressure on our hospitals and staff by offering an alternative to an ED.

“These clinics are really starting to hit their straps and I congratulate everyone involved for reaching a major milestone this week of treating 20,000 patients - that’s 20,000 people who have avoided potentially long waits in EDs by receiving urgent care at the four Centres, since they were launched in August 2019,” Minister Wade said.

“Patient satisfaction continues to be high, with 96 percent of respondents saying they would recommend the service to family and friends, and 91 percent saying they were very satisfied with the service they received.

“This new three-year agreement consolidates Priority Care Centres as an integral part in the state’s healthcare system. Under the new agreement, the Centres’ presence as a key alternative to EDs will be enhanced by a centralised referral system andnew pathways to the service for people with minor injuries and illnesses.

“In addition, the Marshall Government’s My Home Hospital program has also reached a major milestone this week of admitting 1000 patients since the initiative began in January - that’s 1000 people who received hospital-level care in the comfort and privacy of their own home, closer to their family and loved ones. More than 5000 hospital bed days have been released in our hospital system as a result of My Home Hospital – freeing up those beds for patients in need.

“It’s out-of-hospital initiatives like this that are really leading the way in reducing pressure on our busy EDs, along with a raft of other initiatives which are complementing the Marshall Liberal Government’s landmark $3 billion-dollar health infrastructure program which includes upgrading every suburban ED in Adelaide.

“Emergencies which require hospital level care will continue to be treated seriously and EDs will always be open to those who need them. But too many people are waiting in an ED who don’t need to be there and would receive more timely care at their GP, a Priority Care Centre or other non-hospital setting.

The four PCCs - at Hindmarsh, Para Hills West, Elizabeth, Marion - are a Wellbeing SA initiative that are led by GPs and supported by SA Health hospital staff specifically trained in acute assessment and care. Patients are identified through a number of pathways, including by SAAS or Emergency Departments, as needing urgent but not emergency care.

Wellbeing SA Chief Executive, Lyn Dean, said the PCCs were a win for our busy EDs and a win for patients alike - with the timeliness of care to patients being a huge driver of their success.

“We know these alternative treatment centres are treating patients faster, providing high quality care and helping to ease pressure on our EDs and staff,” Ms Dean said.

“Eighty-five per cent of PCC patients completed their care within two hours (waiting time and treatment time) and 60 percent of patients spent an hour or less at a PCC. That compares to the average ED visit time for lower acuity (triage category 4 and 5) patients of 3.6 hours. It’s these patients who would be suitable to be treated at a PCC.

“During 2021, an average of 377 low-acuity patients a day have presented to a metropolitan Adelaide ED but did not require a hospital admission. PCCs are treating, on average, 48 patients a day so it’s clear that, as we continue to streamline the paths to PCCs, it will further alleviate pressure on EDs.

“This year, PCCs have saved, on average, eight ambulance transfers a day. Each ambulance that avoids a potentially long wait on the ramp outside an ED is an ambulance available to transport a patient in need of emergency care.

“In addition, SAAS successfully diverted 32,934 patients away from EDs in the first six months of this year, connecting them to more appropriate care outside of a hospital setting.

“It’s still early days for many alternate care pathways, so we expect that momentum will only continue to grow.”

Common conditions treated at PCCs include minor sprains, wounds and cuts, suspected fractures, urinary tract infections and mild upper respiratory infections.