Dr Vukasovic: our emergency departments are for emergencies only

Westmead Hospital emergency department director Dr Matthew Vukasovic

An increase in the number of the most unwell patients presenting to Westmead Hospital’s emergency department (ED) from July to the end of September this year saw more than 556 patients requiring immediate resuscitation.

The rise of almost seven per cent of very unwell patients on the same period last year has prompted Westmead Hospital’s ED director Dr Matthew Vukasovic to issue a community reminder about emergency departments.

“We want people to remember that emergency departments are emergencies only and consider whether their illness can be treated by a local doctor instead,” Dr Vukasovic said.

‘We are asking the community to do what they can to help keep our EDs free from congestion so that medical staff can quickly attend to people with life-threatening illnesses or conditions.

“Our emergency departments are a busy place and our highly trained doctors and nurses are doing a tremendous job helping to ensure patients are seen on time.” 

While many hospitals saw a decrease in presentations according to the recent Bureau of Health Information figures when compared to last year’s winter (the worst flu season on record in NSW) Westmead actually saw a slight increase.

This year in addition to a large number of patients presenting, there were a far greater number of seriously unwell people and this impacted the time to treatment for some patients.

Despite this however, Westmead Hospital saw one of the State’s biggest improvements in performance for patients being seen, treated and discharged within four hours or less, an increase of 12.3 per cent on last year.

Westmead Hospital also treats the highest number of emergency and urgent categories of patients in NSW. 

Dr Vukasovic said that his department is always looking for ways to improve.

“In October, an emergency department waiting room nurse was appointed in Westmead Hospital ED to help match patient flow, acuity and treatment.

“This is already proving successful as although the number of patients during October to December this year have again increased, the waiting times from triage to treatment have improved for emergency (T2) and urgent (T3) categories of patients.

“A system improvement initiative known as Project Red has also been introduced at Westmead Hospital this financial year after driving big improvements in ED performance at Blacktown Hospital.” 

Project Red, the initiative that has revolutionised patient care in Blacktown Hospital’s emergency department, won a Premier’s Award recently.

Despite an increase in demand of 23.9 per cent (607 cases) this year for elective surgery, Westmead Hospital has maintained its time to provide urgent and semi-urgent surgery.

Overall, Western Sydney Local Health District hospitals recorded a transfer of care of more than 90 per cent during the winter period. This means more patients than ever were transported from an ambulance into the emergency department within the required timeframe. 

Over at Blacktown Hospital, presentations increased by about six per cent this quarter, or about 720 people, compared to the same time last year. 

Blacktown Hospital is one of four hospitals undertaking a six month trial aimed at providing better amenities and more information to patients and their families.

Features of the trial include the introduction of a role devoted to the patient experience. The person in the role connects with patients and provides information to them at each stage of their care. 

Westmead and Blacktown hospitals are home to extensive infrastructure investment. 

The $1 billion NSW Government Westmead Hospital project is the biggest in the state and the $750 million Blacktown Hospital project will be compete next year. 

Western Sydney Local Health District encourages patients with less urgent conditions such as minor illnesses, rashes, aches and pains to visit their GP.

They can also phone healthdirect Australia (1800 022 222), a free telephone advice line staffed by registered nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year.