Leaders act to stem Code Black overcrowding at Cairns Base Hospital
SENIOR officials at Cairns Base Hospital have revealed the facility is regularly at critical patient levels and is struggling to cope with a dramatic increase in admissions to the emergency department.
Health staff use the term "Code Black" to describe the hospital being at extreme capacity and with critical risk to patient care.
Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Board chairman Bob Norman and senior officials have spoken publicly for the first time about the steps being taken to fix the problem, which comes as there has been a 15 per cent spike in emergency admissions over the past 12 months.
The hospital’s district chief operating officer Robin Moore told The Cairns Post yesterday Code Black was most recently called on Monday.
It means paramedics were forced to ramp at the hospital while beds were found to take incoming patients.
"Before we get to those stages we are well aware of the impacts we are having and that is usually around a surge of patients coming through the emergency department," Mr Moore said.
"Code Black has happened more frequently over the last couple of months, but as we have said the number of presentations have increased a fair amount."
Mr Norman said until the hospital upgrade was finished in late 2014, with its additional 168 beds, the hospital would have to take a firmer stance on patients clogging the system.
At any one time there is 20 to 30 patients not needing acute care at the hospital but waiting for disability services or nursing homes. The hospital’s current capacity is 363 beds.
"The point is we’ve really got to take a slightly firmer attitude with people who don’t absolutely, categorically, necessarily have to be here," Mr Norman said.
Some patients wait more than two years to be transferred to allied health services or nursing homes.
"We have a number of patients in the hospital referred to as long-term patients with disabilities," Mr Norman said.
"Some of these patients don’t come from this area and some of the patients have been with us for longer than two years. These patients are disabled and they quite rightly should be in facilities other than hospitals."
Mr Norman said staff had spoken to Queensland Health and Disability and Community Care Services but there was no short-term solution.
"It’s not a situation we want to do but it’s a situation that is forced on us by virtue of the fact that we have limited space in this hospital and we are getting more patients," he said.
CEO Julie Hartley-Jones said there would not be a downgrading of care, but acute beds needed to be set aside. "From last year we’ve had a 15 per cent increase in our emergency department attendances, the only other hospital in the state that has had that level of increase is Robina," she said.
Ms Hartley-Jones said hospital management had created their own measures of alleviating the lack of beds including a new unit and staff continually monitoring available beds.
"We have opened a flex-bed unit with 12 beds where our oncology unit used to be so we can flex it up and down according to the needs of pressures of the emergency department," she said.
Mr Moore said more education was needed for people to visit general practitioners rather than presenting at the hospital.
NEW CAIRNS.COM.AU COMMENT POLICY
We welcome your comments on this story. Comments are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. Comments submitted without a full name and suburb/location will not be considered for publication. Please read our full comment policy and publication guidelines.
Share this article
Big job: Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Board chairman Bob Norman, health service district chief executive Julie Hartley-Jones and district chief operating officer Robin Moore.