Monday 12 September 2011

Cairns hospital patient treated in loading dock

Damon Guppy
Monday, September 12, 2011
© The Cairns Post

A photograph of a patient receiving stitches in the loading bay of Cairns Base Hospital is evidence the emergency department is short of beds and resources, a health union says.

The image obtained by The Cairns Post shows two doctors treating a man for a head wound on a trolley behind an ambulance vehicle. The photographer, who asked not to be named, said the patient was in full view of people walking along the Esplanade.

"How Third World have we become when we cannot adequately stitch a patient in privacy?" the sender wrote."Privacy aside, what about the patient’s dignity? "And what about the greater risks of infection outside of a clean hospital amongst the flies and insects … and the dust and debris of the construction site right in the car park?"

But Queensland Health rejected suggestions that ED staff regularly treated patients in the loading bay or car park. "Any suggestion our staff would put patients at risk of infection or other harm is categorically false," acting director-general Dr Tony O’Connell said.

"Cairns ED performs better than the national average for the time taken to see and begin treating patients. "Best practice ED management requires that a doctor or triage nurse attends an ambulance as it arrives at the ED to ascertain the patient’s condition. "Paramedics are also qualified to apply first aid – such as treating cuts or other non-urgent ailments – within a fully equipped ambulance."

However, Queensland Public Sector Union regional organiser Dr Sandy Donald said the photo was indicative of the daily problems in the ED. "It’s bloody appalling," he said. During a rally last week, ED staff demanded more resources from the State Government, particularly more ward beds for recovering patients to free up room in their department.

Dr Donald said the lack of "resus" beds, on which CPR was performed, put patients’ lives at risk. "It could kill people," he said. "If someone has a cardiac arrest, you can’t immediately treat them effectively. "Of course, you could do CPR on the road or on the floor of the waiting room but it shouldn’t have to come to that."

Mr O’Connell said the emergency department had undergone a major expansion and more ward beds were being built. He said the hospital had received a 20 per cent increase in its budget for staff and other resources

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