Audit office urges revamp of ED wait time reporting

21 Sep 2021

Blurred image of people in hospital waiting room


The Queensland Government has promised to act on the recommendations of a Queensland Audit Office (QAO) report into the measurement of emergency department (ED) patient wait times.

The report found that demand for ED services has outpaced population growth, with walk-in ED presentations increasing by 20.5 per cent and ambulance arrivals by 45.8 per cent between July-September 2014 and October-December 2020. Population growth over the same period was 9.5 per cent.

It also found a lack of reporting on factors affecting how quickly EDs can receive and treat patients, including the available emergency and inpatient beds, ED staffing, and inpatient ward staffing.

“Any block to accessing inpatient wards will significantly impact on an ED’s ability to meet performance targets,” the QAO said.

“Queensland Health does not consistently report on these factors, safety measures or other key issues affecting patient flow, such as adequacy and affordability of primary care in the community, increasing demand for ambulance services, or a lack of inpatient bed capacity.”

It made a number of recommendations to improve the accuracy of ED data recorded, including improving how patient off stretcher time is recorded or reported, and monitoring and reporting on the use of short-term treatment areas within EDs.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath said Queensland Health is already working with Hospital and Health Services across the state to improve the accuracy and quality of emergency department data, and these efforts will continue to be progressed.

Emergency physician Dr Kim Hansen, chair of the AMA Queensland Ramping Roundtable, said it is encouraging that the Minister has said the Government supports the recommendations, as action is needed now.

“The focus must be applied equally to each hospital bed, as the only way there is flow through the ED is if there are beds in wards to move patients to,” Dr Hansen said.

“Our EDs are rated on outdated measures that don’t recognise the complex hospital system they feed into. We need to be measuring patient flow through the entire hospital system and not just ED wait times.

“Access block cannot be fixed without hundreds more hospital beds and staff in intensive care, mental health and general wards.”

You can read the QAO report here.

Published: 21 Sep 2021