15 May 2024

Health Minister praises fresh approach to emergency admissions at Wollongong Hospital

| Zoe Cartwright
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Use of the Emergency Short Stay Area at Wollongong Hospital has been ramped up to manage increasing patient loads. Photo: NSW Health.

A fresh approach to the Emergency Short Stay Area at Wollongong Hospital has improved the number of patients quickly moved from ambulances to the emergency department, the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District says.

The Emergency Short Stay Area (ESSA) operates like a ward within the ED itself – one designed to provide a short period of ongoing treatment and observation of a patient’s condition, and avoid an unnecessary hospital stay.

Wollongong Hospital has almost tripled the use of these beds in the past 12 months by prioritising people needing treatment for moderately complex conditions through the ESSA, freeing up beds in the ED for more seriously unwell patients.

This process also enables the earlier discharge of patients who don’t need to be admitted to hospital.

State Health Minister Ryan Park praised the initiative at a hospital visit on Friday, 10 May.

“These improvements have come about thanks to excellent collaboration of staff across ED, hospital wards, transit lounge, patient-flow teams and multidisciplinary working groups,” he said.

“Together, they’ve implemented more robust analysis, better communication pathways and focused on the availability of transition-to-ward beds that better aligns with peak ambulance arrival times and maximised the efficacy of the short-stay model of care within the ED.

“Collectively, these initiatives are having an impact.”

In January 2024, almost 770 patients were treated in Wollongong Hospital ESSA, compared with 282 patients in January 2023. Performance has further improved in March, with 831 patients managed through ESSA.

In the three months to December 2023, 43,216 people attended EDs across the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District and the number of ambulance arrivals was 12,532, which represents the second-highest quarter on record.

Despite this increased demand, ED staff achieved some remarkable results, including a 27.5 percentage points improvement in the number of patients transferred from ambulances to the ED within 30 minutes at Wollongong Hospital, compared with the same quarter in 2022.

State Member for Wollongong Paul Scully said he was grateful to hospital staff for their work.

“The innovations undertaken by frontline health staff at Wollongong Hospital to improve patient access to care is clearly working and I’m incredibly grateful for their efforts,” he said.

“The stronger focus on the use of the short-stay area means people in our community are being seen and treated faster.”

Original Article published by Zoe Cartwright on Region Illawarra.

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