Australians are going to emergency departments in record numbers and more are waiting several hours – even days – to be admitted.
A survey by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine reports 17,848 people were in emergency across 120 hospitals on a day in late August.
That’s higher than recorded in any of the peak body’s previous surveys since 2011.
One in five needed to be admitted after receiving initial treatment but about 20 per cent of those had to wait more than eight hours for a bed in a ward.
Worse still, more than 100 were classified as having a “dangerously” long wait time of more than 24 hours – nine of them were at a single hospital.
Eight hospitals also reported patients who had been waiting more than two days, with five reportedly staying more than 60 hours.
“This is worse than the findings of previous surveys,” the report, published on Thursday, said.
“EDs operating at this level of are unlikely to provide optimum patient care and do not represent an efficient use of resources.”
The college’s president said having patients staying longer in emergency departments leads to overcrowding and increases the risk of complications, errors and even death.
“There needs to be increased public hospital funding and capacity by increasing the number of available beds, to keep better pace with population growth and the growing demand for public hospital services,” Professor Tony Lawler said.
He has proposed a number of ways to manage the issue, including more funding and realistic targets for hospital performance that promote patient care and minimise the potential for unintended consequences.