This bed in the Kingaroy Hospital emergency room is for category one patients, the most critical patients who often need resuscitating.
This bed in the Kingaroy Hospital emergency room is for category one patients, the most critical patients who often need resuscitating. Tobi Loftus

How emergency rooms prioritise patients

QUEENSLAND Hospitals saved a record number of lives in March despite an increasing demand across the state with an unseasonable spike in flu cases.

Queensland hospitals saw 1.5 million presentations between July 2018 and March 2019, the equivalent of the population of the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Hervey Bay and Maryborough combined.

Last month the state's emergency physicians saw a total of 178, 575 presentations, which is an extra 18,056 people than the same time in 2018.

This is a demand increase of almost six per cent.

Deputy director general of clinical excellence Queensland Dr John Wakefield said despite a huge increase in demand, the Emergency Department doctors, nurses and paramedics fought tooth and nail every single day to save more patients than before.

"99 per cent of the sickest patients were seen within two minutes of reaching hospital," Dr Wakefield said.

"These are people who are so at risk they need immediate care to save their lives."

More than 60 per cent of patients, including those in serious categories one, two and three were seen within 30 minutes of arriving at the hospital.

The majority of patients, 86 per cent, who presented non-urgent categories four and five were treated within four hours.

Dr Wakefield said patients will always get world-class treatment in Queensland's public hospitals, but emergency departments will always prioritise the most urgent cases first, especially those presenting cardiac related conditions.

Darling Downs Health and Hospital Service saw eight category one presentations and 387 category two presentations over the month.

"Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Queensland, with 3,809 people dying from coronary heart disease in 2016," he said.

"Our staff worked to save 104 category-one-critical presentations for cardiac conditions last month."

While most people remember to keep EDs for emergencies, Dr Wakefield said people were still turning up to the department for minor, GP-style ailments.

"Our clients always treat the sickest patients first," he said.

"Everyone will be seen but please know that if you're waiting in an ED to be seen for a minor ailment, it's probably because our-hard working emergency physicians are working hard to save someone's life."

"Our doctors are always going to treat patients based on clinical need so heart attacks will almost always be treated before snake bites, and snake bites before acne or ingrown toenails."