The Territory’s Emergency Departments and hospitals are currently “extremely busy”, and Canberra Health Services has urged patients to consider alternatives for non-urgent care.
CHS Chief Operating Officer Cathie O’Neill attributed the pressure to high numbers of COVID-19 and non-COVID patients, as well as workforce challenges with many team members sick and unable to work.
“We’re not unique in this – every hospital in Australia is experiencing these challenges,” she said.
Ms O’Neill said this pressure is expected to last a few months as winter tends to be busier due to the broader impact of respiratory viruses and the colder weather impacts people with chronic conditions.
CHS has previously described the situation at the hospital as “bed block”, which occurs when a large number of patients require more extended hospital stays, meaning ED patients have to wait longer for a bed to be free.
Nevertheless, Ms O’Neill confirmed anyone who needs emergency care will receive it if they attend the ED, but those with less urgent conditions will be required to wait longer.
CHS recommends patients consider care alternatives such as a GP, a Walk-in Centre, CALMS (Canberra After Hours Locum Medical Services), the National Home Doctor Service and Healthdirect.
At the same time, to free up the workforce, CHS will reduce the hours of the Tuggeranong Walk-in Centre from 7:30 am to 10 pm to 2 pm to 10 pm. These new operating hours will kick in tomorrow (Friday, 24 June) and remain in place until early August.
“At times, we temporarily reduce hours or close some services to redirect staff to more acute services or to ensure other less acute services can continue operating,” Ms O’Neill explained.
“Every one of these decisions is difficult, and we acknowledge the impact they have on our community.”
She urged patience and kindness toward CHS staff.
Last month, CHS announced it would need to postpone some elective surgeries at Canberra Hospital and Calvary Public Hospital.
It’s understood around 11 surgeries a day are being postponed to manage demand more efficiently.
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