Experts gather in Brisbane

Emergency medicine experts including physicians, nurses, paramedics, allied health professionals, administrators and patient advocates have gathered in Brisbane to discuss the critical issues exacerbating emergency department (ED) wait times.
Close to 100 delegates travelled from across Queensland to attend the Emergency Medicine Foundation’s (EMF) research symposium, which showcased the latest research tackling ED congestion.
Professor Hugh Grantham, Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) Chair said the forum provided a rare opportunity for medical staff and managers from the state’s public hospitals to get together and discuss vital issues impacting patient care.

“EDs are the canary in the coalmine, where the coalmine is the whole health system,” Prof Grantham said.

“The problem of blockages shows up in ambulance ramping and long wait times, but this is a complex issue requiring whole-of-health system solutions,” he said.

“One of the biggest concerns for emergency medicine is how to enhance patient flow from arrival at an emergency department to treatment, potential admission, and finally discharge from hospital.

“There are also out-of-hospital factors including access to GPs and the need for more community care of vulnerable patient groups such as aged care and mental health patients.”

Speakers included EMF clinician-researcher, Associate Professor Manaan Kar Ray, Divisional Director (Mental Health), Princess Alexandra Hospital.

A/Prof Kar Ray’s EMF-funded SAFE STEPS project aims to decrease demand on emergency services by designing and assessing systems of care in the community.

“We are confident these systems can proactively identify and support deteriorating mental health patients before they reach ED,” A/Prof Kar Ray said.

“We saw a 66% decrease in ED presentations from patients engaged by the Acute Care Team in 2023 compared to the previous year.

“In January this year, the Mental Health section of Princess Alexandra Hospital’s Emergency Department clocked an impressive 1 hour 12 minutes average length of stay.”

A/Prof Kar Ray said SAFE STEPS would help understand how this was achieved and provide a blueprint for other EDs to replicate the success of Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Headlining the symposium was the $600,000 multi-agency patient flow project supported by EMF and Queensland Health. The study, which wraps up mid-year, is expected to reveal unprecedented insights into patient flow impediments.

Researchers are analysing data from 25 of Queensland’s largest public hospitals over six years, conducting interviews with staff and patients, and carrying out a comprehensive review of published literature.

The research covers the whole health system, including out-of-hospital influences and factors impacting on the patient journey in hospital.

Early results show solutions must come from hospital-wide and health system-wide reforms. Recommendations are expected to target issues such as discrepancies between peak demand for admissions and the timing of patient discharges, and alternative care for long-stay patients.

The research team includes CSIRO – Australia’s national science agency, Queensland Health, University of Queensland, and Queensland Ambulance Service.

A new EMF research investment of $1.3 million to fund 22 projects was also showcased on the day. Projects include innovative ways to improve pain management in children, improving management of prisoners with minor orthopaedic injuries, treating diabetic patients, and optimising treatment for patients who call an ambulance for nausea or vomiting.

Associate Professor Luke Lawton, EMF Board Director and Townsville University Hospital Senior Staff Specialist in emergency medicine said the Foundation’s mission to improve the way people were cared for in a medical emergency underpinned the flavour of its research investment.

“Most of our EMF clinician-researchers are working health professionals with a frontline view of the issues,” A/Prof Lawton said.

“Every day, emergency medicine staff face challenges that need to be overcome to improve patient experiences and outcomes.

“EMF prioritises research which delivers demonstrable benefits to patients, staff and hospitals, and we educate and support emergency department staff to translate research outcomes into practice.”

For more information on how the EMF is making a difference, visit



192: EMF Chair, Prof Hugh Grantham congratulates Dr Claire Bertenshaw, Queensland Ambulance Service on new research funding to improve the management of prisoners with minor orthopaedic injuries.

237: Emergency physicians Dr EJ Marsden, Metro North Hospital and Health Service (HHS), Brisbane and Dr Kim Hansen, EMF Board Director, Brisbane.

061: EMF Board Member and Mackay Hospital and Health Service (HHS) Board Member Associate Professor Luke Lawton, Townsville and Helen Darch OAM, Chair, Mackay HHS, Mackay.

274: Associate Professor Manaan Kar Ray, Divisional Director (Mental Health), Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane and Dr Angie Nguyen Vu, Emergency Medicine Foundation General Manager.

057: Emergency physician Associate Professor Colin Banks, Townsville University Hospital, Townsville, Dr Clinton Gibbs, Clinical Director – Research and Evaluation, Retrieval Services Queensland, Townsville, A/Prof Luke Lawton, EMF Board Director, Townsville and Dr Vinay Gangathimmaiah, Director of Emergency Medicine Research, Townsville University Hospital, Townsville.


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