Emergency departments clogged by sunburn and splinter presentations

The Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick recently commented on new data released in February, which showed that public hospital emergency departments were being clogged with requests for prescriptions and medical certificates, and with minor ailments like a common cold, sunburn and splinters.

The Minister said the unnecessary presentations to Queensland emergency departments were contributing to unprecedented demand in the system, with 50,000 more presentations to EDs last year than in the previous.

“This has got to stop. The doctors and nurses within our emergency departments are highly trained to an international standard and are the best in their field,” the Minister said.

“They are there to save lives, not extract splinters or write prescriptions for patients who could be visiting their GP. If it’s not urgent, you should call or visit your GP, call 13 HEALTH or call the After Hours Home Doctor Service.”

Minister Dick said he was deeply concerned by the unprecedented growth right across the health system, but particularly the spike in emergency department presentations.

“A recent Deloitte Access Economics report on the impact of the home doctor service showed that 762,000 Queenslanders accessed the home doctor service last financial year.

“The report also noted that from a survey of 50,000 home doctor patients across the country last year, 56% said they would have called an ambulance, attended an emergency department or attended an after-hours clinic if they couldn’t access a home visit.

“It’s clear from this report that any changes to this important service will see even more pressure on our public hospitals.”

Examples of presentations which could be treated by a GP, Queensland public hospital emergency departments, 2015-16

Principal Diagnosis Category 5
Changes to surgical dressings and sutures 17,489
Sprain and strains 10,070
Request for prescriptions 3220
Request for medical certificate 2704
Superficial foreign body (splinter) 1203
Foreign body in ear 675
Cough 599
Fracture of toe 541
Constipation 456
Gout, unspecified, site unspecified 365
Other and unspecified medical devices associated with misadventures 246
Foreign body in nostril 225
Fatigue or Malaise 143
Contraceptive management, unspecified 121
Viral warts 107
Unspecified sexually transmitted disease 94
Sunburn, unspecified 66


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